Coronavirus vaccine delivery plan coming, Saskatchewan health minister says

People in Saskatchewan can expect a coronavirus vaccine distribution plan next week, according to Health Minister Paul Merriman.

Merriman said his ministry and Saskatchewan Health Authority have been getting ready to deliver vaccines and a detailed presentation is forthcoming.

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“We do not yet have an exact timeline on when we will be receiving these vaccines. The federal government is now saying the first deliveries will be early in the new year,” he said on Wednesday.

“Saskatchewan’s per capita share that we should be receiving in the first quarter of 2021 is about 180,000 doses, enough to vaccinate 90,000 people.

“This is a huge undertaking involving thousands of health-care workers and other support staff, transportation, storage and many other logistical issues. But let me assure you, we will be ready.”

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Based on the advice of public health officials, Merriman said there will be prioritization for who will receive the vaccine first.

“It’s no surprise that we expect health-care workers and the residents in our long-term care and personal-care homes to receive the first vaccines,” Merriman said.

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“This is how we get back to normal in Saskatchewan. This is how our health system will get back to normal. This is how our economy will get back to normal. This is how our lives will get back to normal. It is quite literally the shot in the arm that Saskatchewan needs.”

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Until the majority of the Saskatchewan population is vaccinated, the minister and the province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, stressed following the public health orders and guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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“We still have a long way to go in this marathon but even marathons have a finish line and now we know where that finish line is. The finish line is when we have delivered a safe, effective vaccine to a significant number of Saskatchewan’s residents. That’s where life can truly start getting back to normal,” Merriman said.

“Protecting the most vulnerable by age and by communities continues to be important. And even as vaccine becomes available, until such time that we have the majority of the population vaccinated, it’s critical that we follow the guidelines, keeping our numbers low overall but also protecting the most vulnerable,” Shahab said.

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Shahab said, hopefully, vaccinating will start happening in April or May of 2021.

“I think we are very happy that there is going to be an initial rollout of at least two vaccines, pending licensing approval — that’s the Pfizer and Moderna products,” Shahab said.

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“We are fully equipped to be able to manage as many vaccines as we get and I think with the H1N1 vaccine, if you remember, we had a very systematic sequenced approach and so we are confident … we’ll be able to offer as many vaccines that we receive in real-time.

“And that will really be important. Higher vaccine uptake by the population in spring and early part of the summer will be key for us to come out of this pandemic.”

Health officials said there were 238 new cases in the daily update on Wednesday, with the overall total for the province growing to 8,982 since the first case was reported in March. They added that the new seven-day average of daily cases is 274.

There have been 53 COVID-19-related deaths in Saskatchewan.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

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