Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman got a sneak peek of what the province’s COVID-19 mass immunization clinics might look like during a trip to Evraz Place Thursday.
Their visit coincided with a provincial government announcement outlining the various options for mass vaccinations once the time comes.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will operate 226 vaccine sites, including nearly 150 mass clinics along with mobile and drive-thru clinics across the province. Vaccines are also expected to be distributed from private clinics, physician’s offices and pharmacies.
Each table at the mass immunization clinic is anticipated to be able to deliver 6-7 vaccines per hour. The Regina site will accommodate up to 30 tables, along with a drive-thru immunization site that will be able to deliver an additional 19 vaccines per hour.
Similar setups will exist in other communities across the province.
Health officials who accompanied Moe and Merriman on the tour said the vaccination process was tested during flu immunizations to fine-tune the flow ahead of the arrival of COVID-19. The process for drive-thru immunizations has been adapted from that of drive-thru testing services which have operated in several communities, including Prince Albert.
For the mass vaccination clinics, residents would make an appointment and show up five minutes before their designated appointment time, at which point they will be registered and then queued up for the next available immunizer.
Each immunizer will be at a physically-distanced immunization station, equipped with supplies for both vaccine delivery and cleaning.
When a station is occupied a red sign will be shown. Once it’s been cleaned and resupplied, it will switch to green.
The greeter at reception will direct you to the next available immunizer with a green sign, ensuring flow to a nurse is not interrupted.
Once immunized, you will be directed to a waiting area and observed for 15 to 20 minutes to ensure there’s no reaction to the vaccine. You will then receive a card that outlines which vaccine you received and the date of your follow-up appointment.
While that process is expected to take about 30 minutes, the province warned that lineups in drive-thru immunization clinics will be longer.
Thursday’s visit also included details about the mobile immunization vehicles — self-contained immunization clinics with all the supplies to vaccinate groups of various sizes. The plan is to use that service to reach residents who can’t travel to a mass clinic or drive-thru, such as rural residents, residents of assisted living homes, First Nations communities and correctional facilities.
“This tour here today was a great reminder that the best thing we can all do together … as we march back to a normal life in this province, the best thing we can do is to get vaccinated,” Moe said.
“When it’s your turn, make a plan to receive a vaccination … so we can all get back to the life we knew before COVID-19.”
The province has said residents living outside of long-term care will be contacted when it’s their turn to get the vaccine, and that as each age group rolls out in the province’s age-based mass vaccination plan, they will use as many means as possible to communicate who is eligible, including print and online advertising, social media and news media, posters and partnerships with municipalities. Once someone becomes eligible, they do not lose that eligibility to get vaccinated if they hesitate to make a decision, the province has said. The province is developing an online and phone booking system to make it easy to get an immunization appointment. That system is expected to roll out in time for phase 2.
Moe said the province has the capacity to hit their target of 7,000 vaccines per day — they just need reliable access to those vaccines.
So far, that has not been the case, with doses trickling in and orders cancelled.
Citing comments by Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics, Moe said he is “hopeful and quite confident” those vaccine supply struggles are going to change in the weeks and months ahead.
He said Canada is expected to receive 23 million doses of the vaccine between April and June. Saskatchewan’s share would be about 700,000, or 8,000 doses per day, enough to vaccinate 350,000 people.
Merriman said Thursday that they’re using anyone they can to help get vaccines into arms, such as “people in post-secondary education,” and retired health care workers.
“We’re all hands on deck,” he said.
“The health delivery apparatus is ready to deliver vaccines to Saskatchewan people in very short order,” Moe said.
Details about the locations of vaccination clinics outside of Evraz Place will be detailed once the province is ready to enter phase 2, the mass vaccination phase, of its COVID vaccine plan.