Sask. calls for antibody treatments, Johnson & Johnson vaccines from federal government

Saskatchewan is asking the federal government to make efforts to acquire the COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

According to some studies, the recently approved antibody treatment could help slow the spread of COVID-19 infection inside the body if administered within 10 days of first being infected.

Premier Scott Moe said Thursday he also plans to ask for more specialists to help health care workers in the fight against COVID-19’s fourth wave in addition to the treatments.

“Are there other early intervention treatments that may be an opportunity for us to actually reduce the people that are going into our hospitals, just to identify people that may be at high risk of severe outcomes of COVID and offer those treatments to those individuals so that ultimately does reduce the pressure that we're feeling in our hospital systems,” Moe said.

At a press conference Friday, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Ottawa is willing to work with Saskatchewan, but it needs more details on how the treatment would be used.

“We do have a supply in Canada. We also know that Saskatchewan has a supply and again, once we understand the degree to which they propose to use these antibodies and the timeline, we will have a better sense of how we can meet the need,” said Hajdu.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health said a monoclonal antibody seeing regular use in Saskatchewan through the pandemic is tocilizumab, a drug administered in hospitals to patients with severe symptoms.

SASK. JOINS CALLS FOR JOHNSON & JOHNSON DOSES

Even with antibody treatments helping some patients, health care professionals say vaccinations are still the best way to protect against the virus, leading Saskatchewan to join with Alberta in requesting supplies of the single-dose Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the federal government.

”Alberta and Saskatchewan are committed to working together to secure a supply of Janssen vaccine. The intent is provide it to primary health care sites or those locations where the single dose vaccine option would lead to an increased COVID-19 vaccination uptake,” the Ministry said in a statement.

The federal government said the Janssen vaccine still needs to meet all required criteria for vaccine authorization.

“There have been some studies that have come out to show that there's added benefit from a second dose of the [Janssen] vaccine to help boost immunity,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical advisor.

Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam noted residents should be assured all available vaccines in Canada are safe, but if the Janssen vaccine is the only vaccine people will take, they’ll acquire some doses.

“I think one thing that we need from the provinces, is a good estimation of the amount that is required. We do not want to waste any vaccines that can help other countries in the world,” Dr. Tam said.

The federal government currently does not have any Johnson & Johnson vaccines on hand.