‘At the brink’: Health authorities launch vaccine voice calls in northern Sask.

“If the current situation remains in the next two weeks, we might likely see an unprecedented collapse of our health system, because our hospitals are full to capacity,” Nnamdi Ndubuka.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise across the province, health authorities are rolling out the first phase of a vaccine auto-notification system on Wednesday in northern Saskatchewan.

The phased project will use voice call messages to send notifications to northern Saskatchewan residents, aged 12 years old and over. 

“Our concern is mainly the relatively low uptake amongst the younger population,” Northern InterTribal Health Authority (NITHA) medical health officer Nnamdi Ndubuka said. 

“That is one of the reasons why we are supporting this particular auto notification — as a way to reach out to the young population. We know that they do have access to mobile technology, so that would help to improve the uptake in those cutting edge categories.”

Northern residents between the ages of 12 and 17 years old are only 27 per cent fully vaccinated as of September 6. That’s a steep drop from residents between the ages of 60 and 69 years old who are 96 per cent fully vaccinated.  

Ndubuka sees the project as an “added strategy” to enhance COVID-19 vaccine uptake among younger residents who are less likely to be fully vaccinated as the school year begins. 

“We need to protect those people, including in schools where children who are 11 years of age and below who are not eligible for the vaccine yet,”  Ndubuka said.

“If the current situation remains in the next two weeks, we might likely see an unprecedented collapse of our health system, because our hospitals are full to capacity.

“Saskatchewan at this point is under imminent threat from the Delta variant, and we are seeing an increase in hospitalizations, particularly among the unvaccinated people.”

Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) Medical Health Officer Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu said the vaccine auto-notification system is the result of a partnership between the SHA, Indigenous Services Canada, NITHA and other First Nations partners.

It’s intended as a “timely and cost effective way” to reach all Saskatchewan residents and boost vaccination rates — especially for people who want to be vaccinated or have questions about the vaccines. Additional phases will be considered once the first phase is evaluated.

Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) Medical Health Officer Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu agreed that it’s important “now more than ever” to get fully vaccinated — to help protect the vulnerable from becoming infected with COVID-19.

“These notifications will help to ensure everyone is aware that COVID-19 vaccines are available to them, with a goal to increase vaccination rates,” Nsungu said. 

“This can help those who have not yet been vaccinated choose to become protected against exposure of COVID variants and protect themselves, their families and those around them.”

Ndubuka said healthcare workers are stretched — some are going on stress leave and others are taking sick leave. 

“That tells you that we are at the brink,”  Ndubuka said.

“I really want to call on everyone to please if they have not been vaccinated to please do so because they will contribute to community herd immunity… Community members need to help public health and work together to emerge from this pandemic.”

The SHA is assuring residents that all the vaccines being administered are safe, effective and approved by Health Canada to protect against COVID-19 and emerging variants of concern. 

Vaccine notifications are identifiable as coming from the Saskatchewan Health Authority and its partners with the identifier telephone number 306-655-4603 for voice call messages. More information on the COVID-19 vaccine auto-notification voice call messages can be found here

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