Immunization of Health Care Workers Begins in Saskatoon
St. Paul’s Hospital ICU Registered Nurse Kathy Pickerl was first in line to receive the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine in Saskatoon today, as the province moved into the early stages of Phase 1 of the Vaccine Delivery Plan.
Other recipients among the 1,950 health care workers being immunized will include staff from ICUs, Emergency Departments, COVID units, testing and assessment centres. Additional priority groups will be considered depending on uptake. However, the focus on these initial doses will continue to be health care workers who can travel to the vaccination site, because of the restrictions on moving the vaccine. The immunization will take several days to complete.
“It’s been a difficult year and I recognize the holidays will be no exception,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said. “I hope everyone is heartened by the fact that the first stage of the Regina Pilot is nearly done and Phase 1 of the Vaccine Delivery Plan has begun. By the end of the month, nearly 4,000 health care workers will have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Pending approval, we expect the first shipment of the Moderna vaccine before the end of the month.”
Twenty people will be immunized today in Saskatoon, followed by 183 tomorrow and up to 436 people each day after that, with a break over the holidays. In addition, more doses will arrive in Saskatoon next week, enabling a further 487 health care workers to be immunized. The second dose of the vaccine will be administered to recipients within three to four weeks.
“As an ICU physician I’ve been at the frontline of this pandemic since the beginning,” Critical Care Specialist Dr. Hassan Masri, second in line to receive the vaccine, said. “I’ve seen the impact this disease has on patients, families, health care workers, and our communities. This vaccine gives us hope. It lets us know that the end to this fight may be in sight. We can’t stop following the guidelines – hand washing, wearing our masks, social distancing, closing our bubbles – but we can start thinking about life after COVID-19.”
As of December 21, 1,519 health care workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine through the pilot in Regina. The vaccine is also being made available to select staff at Parkside Extendicare, who will be among the remaining 431 health care workers to be immunized in the coming days in Regina. According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority, both the booking and administration of the vaccine have gone smoothly.
It is expected that complex travel restrictions for the Pfizer vaccine will be revised in the coming days, and more vaccines will become available, including Moderna. This will enable the delivery plan to move into our priority sequencing, which includes long-term care and personal care home residents, those in the 80 and over age range, residents over 50 in northern and remote areas and those in the 70 to 79 year age range.
Phase 2 of the delivery plan is tentatively expected to start in April 2021 and will include the beginning of immunization of the general population. In the meantime, it is essential for all Saskatchewan residents to continue to follow public health orders including wearing a mask and practicing the basics such as staying home when sick, frequent handwashing and working from home if possible.
For more information on Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccine planning, visit https://www.saskatchewan.ca/COVID19-vaccine.
General public inquiries may be directed to COVID19@health.gov.sk.ca.
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