A renewed focus on getting young populations vaccinated, and a return to business as usual were factors in the SHA’s decision to alter its vaccine rollout strategy.
That’s according to Paul Ross, the Director of Primary Health Care with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) in Prince Albert. Starting Aug. 8, the SHA will transition away from its old vaccine rollout policy. Ross said the current model was successful, but the demand has decreased as the number of fully vaccinated residents has gone up.
“We are not getting uptake in our regular clinic locations within the drive-thru and within what we call a mass clinic, the clinic at the PA Exhibition,” Ross explained during a phone interview on Tuesday. “We are trying to take the clinic to where the people are, just to make it more convenient (and) get a more successful vaccination percentage in our area.”
Ross said younger Saskatchewan residents are less likely to be vaccinated. A 30-year-old is less likely to get a dose than a 40-year-old, who is less likely to get it than a 50-year-old.
“We are trying to focus in on the younger age groups just to get the vaccine where they are,” Ross said,
“We are going on kind of a mobile pop up model in order to try and get more of our population vaccinated, because the more people that are vaccinated the better off we are going to be in terms of getting through this pandemic.”
Monday’s transition announcement, and the province’s Tuesday COVID-19 update both showed that 74 per cent of Saskatchewan residents 12 and old have their first dose, with 62 per cent of eligible residents fully vaccinated. The numbers have recently shown signs of stagnating.
The downtown Prince Albert Farmer’s Market pop up clinic is one successful example of the new model. The SHA plans to run it again this week for the third week.
“Of course, there are people who are hesitant, but there are also people where maybe it just hasn’t been convenient for them, for their schedule. We are trying to go to where people are just to make it more convenient in order to get a better uptake,” Ross said.
After August 8 the online and phone booking system and drive-thru system will all be shut down. The province will then shift to walk-in clinics in public venues throughout the province.
That list includes planned summer events, post-secondary campuses, retail locations like grocery stores, pow wows, provincial parks and recreations areas, community centres and more.
“We are looking to transition into a different model for vaccination clinics that we offer to individuals who need their first and second doses,” Ross explained. “We also want to try and transition back into our regular business in terms of child health clinics and those sort of duties.
“We are kind of happy but it’s also a sad time because our clinics have been our business since February when we started rolling out vaccines,” he explained.
Participating Saskatchewan pharmacies will continue to provide COVID-19 vaccinations by appointment. Ross said the SHA will still be working with the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) health team on creating pop up vaccination clinics in the future.
“We haven’t built our schedules quite yet we are just building them right now in terms of locations and dates,’ Ross said.
One constant will remain with the Senator Allen Bird Gym clinic continuing to host a walk-in clinic after the transition according to Ross.
“For people that may not have good access to social media or the internet to find locations, the Senator Allen Bird will be doing a walk in but those dates haven’t been set yet,” Ross said.
Starting Monday the daily SHA clinic locations will be promoted in the daily COVID-19 case news release.
The province said Monday that Saskatchewan now has vaccine supplies to fully immunize 85 per cent of the population. They said supply will not be a limiting factor on the province achieving their vaccination goals.
Currently, there are 128,000 doses of Pfizer available through SHA and pharmacies for residents 12-17 and those seeking to complete their vaccine series with a matched second dose.
It is safe to receive any mRNA vaccine as a second dose and all residents require both doses of the approved two-dose vaccines in order to achieve optimum protection, particularly against the Delta variant, which is circulating in Saskatchewan now.
Before the change on August 8 appointments will still be available through online system and 1-833-SASKVAX.
“This is a little reminder for anybody that is wanting to get their vaccine, their first or their second doses to get into the booked appointments because there are some vacancies within our system and that would be probably the first message I would like to get across,” Ross said.