Saskatchewan’s Health Minister addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health Monday morning to appeal to the federal government for a reliable COVID-19 vaccine supply and increased communication from Ottawa.
“Simply put, we need more vaccines. And we need more reliable information about when we’re receiving those vaccines,” said Paul Merriman. “The flow of information is almost as important as the flow of vaccines.”
According to the Health Minister, the COVID-19 vaccines are more complex to transport, store and administer than the flu shot, so when information changes suddenly, it creates more challenges.
Merriman said due to the size of the province and the number of remote communities, the changes directly affect appointment planning, vaccine transportation, refrigeration and the deployment of health care workers.
Merriman told the committee if Saskatchewan does not get the doses it was originally assured, the province risks falling behind in its vaccine rollout plan.
“If we don’t get everything that we’re promised right now, we will be in a challenging situation to get a second dose to the people that have their first dose in the timeframe that is recommended,” said Merriman.
The Minister said vaccine clinics have been cancelled because of the shortage. According to the Ministry of Health, Regina and Swift Current were “slated to receive vaccine delivery next week for first dose administration to priority groups, but that will be rescheduled.”
The province anticipated a total of 190,000 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be delivered by the end of March. Merriman said Saskatchewan is now projected to get just 110,000 vaccines by then. The government has not said how this will impact its vaccine rollout.
Saskatchewan has administered 108 per cent of the Pfizer and Moderna doses it has received so far. Merriman attributed the overage to healthcare workers drawing six doses out of the five-dose Pfizer vial. However, Merriman voiced opposition to Health Canada changing the Pfizer label to say it contains six doses instead of five.
He said the sixth dose should be an “added benefit, not the standard” and that health care workers have been able to pull an extra dose out of half the Pfizer vials.