Saskatchewan has moved into the second phase of its vaccination program sooner than anticipated.
On Thursday the Government of Saskatchewan officially announced the launch of phase two of the vaccination program. This phase sees the introduction of booking eligibility online and by phone for residents 67 years and older.
Health Minister Paul Merriman explained during a press conference that the first week of the new vaccine appointment system had been a success with over 66,000 residents booking their vaccines. The expansion is due to the rapid and successful rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations through the SHA’s vaccine booking system.
“The pace of vaccines in our province continues to increase thanks to the tremendous effort of our healthcare workers and thanks to everyone who has taken the time to book your appointment or visit the Regina drive through and get your shot. Every time a healthcare worker gives a shot, every time a Saskatchewan resident gets a shot you are making Saskatchewan a safer place for everyone so thank you,” Merriman said.
“Yesterday 1,900 shots were administered at the Regina drive through clinic — our highest one day total to date. We are reporting a total of 5,430 shots administered also our highest total to date. Saskatchewan now has the highest per capita rate of vaccines administered in every province. Just over 10,000 per 100,000 people. These numbers are only going to increase in the days to come,” he added.
Effective at noon on Thursday, eligibility for the online and phone-in booking system is expanded to the 67 years and older age group and those considered clinically extremely vulnerable, phase two also includes select congregate living settings such as group homes for persons with intellectual disabilities and emergency shelters. Merriman explained that the appointments will open up incrementally by descending age of order beginning with that group.
“We will be opening up to more age groups just as fast as we can based on the number of vaccines and the appointments that are available. So I would encourage everyone to check the government of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 website or the SHA’s website and social media feed often to see when exactly you can get your booking appointment and then book it. For everyone 67 and older you can book right now,” Merriman said.
He added that there are still appointments open at some clinics across the province.
“I would encourage everyone when you are eligible go online, call the toll free number and book your appointment,” Merriman said,
Anyone who is 67 years old as of March 18, 2021, can go online to book an appointment at www.saskatchewan.ca/covid19-vaccine.
Residents will need a Saskatchewan health services card and an email or cell phone in order to receive notification reminders of the appointment. People without email or cell phones can call 1-833-Sask-Vax (727-5829).
SHA CEO Scott Livingstone explained that there is some overlap between phases one and two and everyone who is eligible from phase one can still register.
“This is a natural overlap that was always expected. Doing so insures that we are making every effort to maximize the capacity we have built to get vaccines in arms as quickly and as safely as possible. We built an immunization program that is capable of continuing to lead the nation in both its speed and its safety,” Livingstone said.
He explained that there needs to be continued high volumes of vaccine and that people are continuously booking in the system.
“And if you are in phase one and for some reason you haven’t booked yet please keep in mind that once you are eligible you are always eligible,” Livingstone said.
“I would like to ask for patience as we manage some of the ongoing change and aggressive timelines of an immunization program of this size and scope. Fast-paced change does not always lend itself to clear communication. Multiple different vaccines … and formats can also add to public confusion. But our main goal is clear and that’s to give every Saskatchewan resident access to the vaccine as soon as possible and that’s a goal we all share. So please bear with us as we take out the wrinkles in the program and be assured that we will continue to deliver vaccine as safe as possible.”
While the eligibility categories have broadened into the phase two recommendations, vaccinations and eligibility for individuals identified in phase one will continue until completed. This includes completing all first and second doses for long-term care and personal care home residents and staff.
As more vaccine becomes available in the coming weeks, clinics will be expanding across the province.
Individuals who may be considered clinically extremely vulnerable will receive a letter with instructions for booking appointments.
During the press conference Executive Director of Infrastructure Management Derek Miller said that there are currently 2,500 individuals identified to receive letters.
A complete list of clinically extremely vulnerable conditions is available at www.saskatchewan.ca/covid19.
“Phase two will also prioritize congregate living settings such as group homes and emergency shelters. We will be working to vaccinate those residents and staff as quick as possible primarily through our mobile clinics,” Merriman said.