As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues across Saskatchewan, some priority health care workers are refusing to get immunized.

Dr. Hassan Masri was one of the first physicians in Saskatoon to get the shot, but said he isn’t surprised that some are deciding to go in a different direction.

“Health care workers are no different than the rest of the population. They have the same worries that the general person has,” he told CTV News.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said a small percentage of its staff who are eligible to receive the vaccine have declined.

SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said he doesn’t know the exact number but said it’s important to keep in mind that only priority health care workers are eligible to receive the vaccine right now and there are 43,000 employees within the SHA.

Like the general population, Masri said some health care workers have differing views on vaccination and immunization or need more information before they can go ahead with it.

“As they see that the people in health care like myself and others have received the vaccine and have had no problems with it whatsoever, that number will certainly go down,” Masri said.

Livingstone also believes as more people are vaccinated, fewer health care workers will say no.

“I think there’s some nervousness around being the first with the first vaccine, but it doesn’t mean it’s a ‘no’ outright. That means they’re just not ready to step up and be that first person,” he said.

According to Livingstone, the rates of vaccination in Saskatoon and Regina have been high.

He adds that with more frequent vaccine deliveries coming to the province, it has enabled the SHA to spread out to more communities where priority health care workers are located.

While health care workers have the choice like anyone else, Katrina Plamondon, a healthy policy expert and assistant professor within the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia, said health care workers who chose not to get vaccinated could face extra restrictions while on the frontlines.

“It might mean that if they choose not to be vaccinated, they have to wear a mask if they’re around any other people or they might be unable to provide care in their frontline care role if their refusal of a vaccine is creating an excess of risk for the population that they’re serving,” she said.

Regardless of whether a health care worker has been immunized, Masri said the precautions are all still the same. Personal protective equipment, physical distancing and proper hand hygiene remain top priorities.

However, he believes the vaccine is the long-term solution and that patience and compassion are crucial during this time.

“The key to these issues is more education, more awareness and a kind, non-judgemental approach to all of this.”