Province no longer holding second doses of vaccines, plan to administer all doses

Screen Capture/Government of Saskatchewan

Health Minister Paul Merriman announced the province will no longer hold back vaccines for second doses, and instead start using all vaccinations once they arrive.

Merriman made the comments during a press conference with Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab on Wednesday.

The Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine and Moderna vaccine require patients to receive two doses to be fully effective. Those who get the Pfizer vaccine receive a second dose after 21 days of the first dose. The Moderna vaccine requires a second dose after 28 days. 

Merriman explained that with the first two deliveries of Pfizer vaccines, the manufacturer and the Public Health Agency of Canada required the province to hold onto half of the vials for second dosages.

However, now that the province knows when it will be getting vaccine deliveries, Shahab said they don’t have to hold back second dosages. 

The Minister of Health also provided an update on how many of those vaccines have been administered. 

In Regina, 3,900 vaccines were delivered which was enough to vaccinate 1,950 health care workers. Merriman said that all of the first dosages have been administered. The province was able to vaccinate more people than they intended. 

“That’s because by carefully measuring and administrating the exact dosage of each shot, our healthcare workers were actually able to do 2,069 first dose,” Merriman explained.

Those 2,069 health care workers are now starting to receive their second dosage.

Elsewhere in the province, Saskatoon received 4,875 doses which is enough to vaccinate 2,437 health care workers. Merriman said the province has completed 98 per cent of the first shots, and the rest should be finished by Thursday morning. 
As of Wednesday, Prince Albert also received 3,900 vaccines at Victoria Hospital. 
Merriman also raised concern that the federal government isn’t sending enough vaccines. He said the province could get more vaccinations done if the federal government provided them with more vaccines.
The federal government has advised the province that in the last three weeks of January, 6,800 Pfizer vaccines will be delivered to Saskatchewan.
“This is simply not enough,” Merriman stated.
Premier Scott Moe is slated to speak with the Prime Minister and other premiers over the phone, tomorrow. Merriman said he knows Moe will be raising the same concerns that the province needs more vaccines. 
COVID-19 restrictions were also addressed at Wednesday’s press conference. Current restrictions are in place until Jan. 15, Merriman said it will be determined early next week if those restrictions need to be changed or extended.

As for those tight restrictions around the holidays, Shahab said for the most part residents stuck to their households.
Shahab also spoke about vaccines, and added that the “logistics are very complex” around storing the Pfizer vaccines in ultra-low temperature freezers. These freezers are in only four locations in the province.

Moderna vaccines in the north
Saskatchewan received their first batch of Moderna vaccines last week. 

The Moderna vaccines are easier to transport than the Pfizer vaccines, since they only need to be stored at -20 C, whereas Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be kept at -70 C.

The province is delivering the Moderna vaccines to northern Saskatchewan, where nurses began administering shots on Tuesday to health care workers and long term care residents. A total of 48 Moderna doses have been administered in the Far North West and Far North Central zones, the province reported Wednesday.

Merriman was questioned about why only 48 vaccinations took place when 4,900 doses arrived in the province last week. 
“There’s a very big difference (between) getting the vaccine in somebody’s arm, and getting it in somebody’s arm in a remote community,” he answered. 

“When we have people that are only getting vaccinated that are in our first week of sequence, which is healthcare workers as I identified (and) people over 50, there’s not a lot of them up in the remote communities.”

Merriman said the 4,900 doses of Moderna are either in transport to northern communities or already on location. He says it’s not a quick process and takes time to transport vials. He added the government wants to ensure its not rushing the process of transporting vaccines around the province.

“If we get a vaccine shipment that’s been rushed and somehow been damaged, we’ve accomplished nothing,” Merriman stated.