Vaccine delivery in schools to begin in June

Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone. (Brandon Harder/Regina Leader-Post)

On Tuesday the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) announced it would begin delivering COVID-19 vaccines in elementary and high schools in early June. Health Minister Paul Merriman made the announcement during the province’s press conference on COVID-19 on Tuesday.

“The SHA will be setting up clinics in every school in Saskatchewan to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine, students and parents will be notified in advance when the vaccine clinic is coming to your school,” Merriman said.

“I should note that you don’t have to wait for the vaccine clinics to come to your school.”

SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said that bringing protection to children and teenagers was a huge step forward for the province.

“Offering vaccines to students at age 12 and older is consistent with the national guidance and is safe and approved by Health Canada,” Livingstone said.

“Just like our campaign has been all along we are prioritizing safety and efficiency, looking to immunize all eligible kids over a three week period of time and all to be over by the time school lets out for the summer,” he added.

Delivery dates are currently being finalized with local education officials. Once dates are confirmed, they will be communicated directly to parents through individual schools. Derek Miller the SHA executive director of infrastructure management explained that the province is working with representatives from schools and the province’s 27 school divisions to arrange logistics.

“We are working again with the local schools to make sure those align as much as possible with school schedules and other commitments like graduations, exams and any alternate learning schedules that might be in place around the province,”

Communication will be through school communications channels according to Miller.

“All of the clinics will be ran in the same safe manner consistent with public health orders and screening protocols and personal protective equipment that parents would have seen as they went through the vaccination clinics,” Miller said.

There will be more than 90,000 vaccines in total for individuals 12 years of age and older. Students aged 12 to 17 are only approved to receive Pfizer vaccine at this time and plans will vary by city or town and go all the way down to school level. It will be conducted over three weeks starting at the start of June. The clinics will be operating in schools Monday to Friday during the regular school week.
“During this time we will be shifting the SHA part of the campaign to focus more on operating our other services like drive thrus and walk ins to Fridays through Sundays, so really focusing on the weekends for those other delivery methods. We won’t be providing booked appointments during this time,” Miller explained during his presentation.

Booked appointments will continue to be available through participating pharmacies.

Written consent will be required for all ages 12 to 17 primarily for tracking purposes. This is in case children receive one dose at school and another dose through another delivery method. The single consent is for both doses.

In every scenario, parents are encouraged to play an active role in reviewing information packages provided and to discuss the importance of vaccination with them.

“The key component of this school strategy is the role parents or primary caregivers will play such an important role in this stage of immunization. Many of you have had yourself receive vaccines and we encourage you to talk to your children to address any questions or fears they may have in advance of their immunizations. Celebrate with your kids when they say yes to COVID immunization and choose to protect themselves, their family and our province in joining the hundreds of thousands of other Saskatchewan residents who have already rolled up their sleeves,” Livingstone said.

As of May 20 children 12 and over are eligible to receive vaccines and are not required to wait for school clinics to begin operating. Other options administering Pfizer vaccine include participating pharmacies, drive thru and walk in and booking online for an SHA appointment or calling 1-833-SASKVAX (727-5829).

This is the last group currently approved for immunization and the province hopes it will be expanding to younger populations in the fall, as vaccines are nationally approved for their use.

Students must wait a minimum of 21 days after receiving their first dose before receiving a second dose, based on manufacturer specifications.

Second doses are expected to be provided in July and August after second doses are completed in older populations.

Second dose vaccine schedule released Tuesday

Also on Tuesday the province released the schedule for second doses. Second doses have begun for those 85 and older who received their first dose before Feb. 15.

“As you can see because of the increase of supplied vaccines we will be able to move quickly through the eligibility for second dose, much faster than the first. In fact, by the end of July virtually everyone should have had a chance to get their second dose. Think about that for a second by the end of July Saskatchewan could be fully vaccinated. It’s up to you, it’s up to the Saskatchewan people doing their part in getting your shot,” Merriman said.

Descending ages open based on date of first dose beginning June 28 and continue until July 28. Tentatively:

  • Second dose eligibility is tentatively set to open to residents aged 80 plus on May 24, so long as they received their first dose by March 15.
  • For residents 70 plus, they are expected to be able to receive a second dose starting May31, so long as they received a first dose by March 15.
  • Residents aged 65 and older can get second doses starting June 7, as long as they received their first dose by March 22
  • People 55 or older who got their first dose by April 7 are set to start getting second doses by June 14
  • Those over the age of 45 can get their second shot by June 21 so long as they got their first shot by April 15.

Individuals diagnosed with or being treated for cancer and those who have received solid organ transplants will receive a letter of eligibility in the mail that will allow them priority access to a second dose.

For all other residents, eligibility to book for second doses is based on age or date of first dose.  Residents who meet at least one of these criteria will be eligible for their second dose. 

For all other residents, eligibility to book for second doses will be announced according to the age-based and priority sequencing of first doses. The following table is a tentative guideline; timelines may change due to vaccine availability. Astra Zeneca is not included as the province awaits advice on the use of Astra Zeneca for timing of second doses.

Second dose vaccinations will be available at participating pharmacies across the province, through the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) drive-thru and walk-in clinics as well as through clinics operated by Indigenous Services Canada and the Northern Inter-tribal Health Authority (NITHA). 

Second dose vaccinations can be booked online or by calling 1-833-SaskVax (1-833-727-5829).   Be ready by knowing the date you received your first vaccine.  If you do not know the date or have misplaced the wallet card provided at the time of your first dose, they can provide you with that date, or check your Immunization History on your MySaskHealthRecord account.