P.A. not among communities chosen for pharmacy vaccine pilot

Five new COVID-19 deaths province-wide over the weekend

A nurse draws a dose from a vaccine vial in Prince Albert. Photo courtesy SHA.

Prince Albert isn’t one of the 14 communities included in a pilot program that sees pharmacies in select Saskatchewan cities receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The list of pharmacies and communities was posted by the province Monday. Pharmacies will start to receive vaccines Thursday as part of a small-scale rollout “to refine distribution and vaccination processes.”

Pharmacies are responsible for their own booking procedures and will follow the same age-based sequencing for vaccine distribution as the rest of the province. The pharmacies are also responsible for their own awareness efforts, communicating directly with the public. You won’t be able to book a vaccination appointment with a pharmacy using the online or phone vaccine booking systems set up by the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Those methods can only be used for SHA-run vaccination clinics.

The pharmacy vaccination pilot rollout begins as the province prepares to receive more doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The province expects to receive enough vaccines to inoculate 70 per cent of the eligible population over the age of 16 by the end of May.

The minimum age for vaccines is expected to lower to 40 this week, at which point front-line educational staff and corrections staff will be added to the vaccination priority list.

Vaccines are currently available to everyone aged 44 and over.

Saskatchewan administered 3,629 doses of vaccine Sunday and 7,451 on Saturday.

More than half (57 per cent) of all residents aged 40 or older have received at least one dose of vaccine. Just over one-in-five residents in their 40s have received their first dose, while just over half of residents in their 50s have at least one shot in their arm. The vaccination rate for residents in their 60s is 74 per cent, and is over 80 per cent for residents in their 70s and over the age of 80.

Saskatchewan added 245 new cases of COVID-19 in Monday’s update, along with 249 Sunday and 286 Saturday, for a three-day total of 780. There were 705 recoveries in the same time period.

Of Monday’s new cases, 178 were variants of concern. Three of the detected variant cases were in the North Central zone.

There are now 2,538 active cases in Saskatchewan. The average daily new case count is 251, or 20.5 new daily cases per 100,000 population.

Three new cases were added to Prince Albert, designated as North Central 2, Monday. The city now has 50 active cases of COVID-19. North Central as a whole reported nine new cases.

Five people diagnosed with COVID-19 have died since Friday. Two of the residents were in their 70s, one each was in their 50s and 60s and the fifth was in the 80 and over age group. Two of the residents were from the north west zone, two from the Regina area and one from the far north west.

There are 187 COVID-19 patients in the hospital as of Monday. Of those, 45 are in the ICU.

Regina has the highest count of hospitalized patients with 58 receiving inpatient care and 27 in the ICU.

North Central has seven people with COVID-19 receiving inpatient care and two in the ICU.

Outbreak at Sask. Pen growing

According to data from Correctional Services Canada (CSC), the outbreak at Saskatchewan Penitentiary is growing. Friday, 13 positive cases had been identified in the medium security unit. By Sunday, that number had grown to 22.

It’s the institution’s fourth COVID-19 outbreak. CSC indicated that the outbreak was due to new arrivals who tested positive, and not due to spread within the facility.

The federal government has made COVID-19 vaccinations available to inmates, a move the province hasn’t replicated in provincial jails. Additionally, frontline correctional staff in Saskatchewan won’t become eligible for vaccine priority until vaccinations open up to all residents aged 40 or older, a milestone expected to be hit this week.

While doctors have called for provincial inmates to be added to the priority list, citing prisons as the only communal living facilities not prioritized, the province has rejected the call, arguing there aren’t enough vaccines to go around.

Outbreaks at correctional facilities were flagged by doctors Thursday as a major source of new COVID-19 case generation, and communal living settings as a source of added hospital and ICU pressure.

The province has listed Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert youth provincial correctional facilities on its active outbreak lists. Sask. Pen is also listed.

Monday, the city’s sanitation department and Carlton Comprehensive High School were also added to that list. The sanitation department’s outbreak is listed with a Monday start date, while Carlton’s dates back to March 31.

An outbreak is defined as two or more people testing positive for COVID-19 in the same setting.