Sask. Premier, health minister go back and forth on next steps for vaccine distribution

Saskatchewan’s premier announced his intention to begin vaccinating employees across several industries as the province continues with its Vaccine Distribution Plan.

Premier Scott Moe addressed this intention at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) Energy Symposium on Wednesday.

Saskatchewan is considering “setting aside the age limit just to focus some vaccines on those folks that, in this [energy] industry and other industries that have worked safely throughout and for that we are forever grateful,” Moe told attendees of the symposium.

At Wednesday’s COVID-19 update, Minister of Health Paul Merriman reinforced his belief that an age-based vaccine rollout is the province’s path to beating COVID-19.

“The age-based sequence is still the best way of getting the most vaccines out,” Merriman said. “We do target some specific groups but the age-based sequence on our base vaccination program is working for us.”

Merriman said he believed Moe was referencing frontline employees whose jobs leave them at risk of being exposed to COVID-19, such as long-term care and nurses in COVID-19 wards.

Speaking to media after the symposium on Wednesday, Moe said he had no plans to move away from the province’s age-based vaccine rollout plan. He said his intention was instead, to eventually use mobile vaccination clinics to offer shots to large workplaces.

The premier said he hopes that when mobile units free up, Saskatchewan could look at larger workplaces across other industries where hundreds of people are employed. He used Regina’s Evraz steel mill as an example.

Saskatchewan’s mobile units are currently working to vaccinate residents at shelters and group homes across the province.

VACCINE HESITANCY

Moe and Merriman both addressed vaccine hesitancy on Wednesday, which has become more apparent since Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) amended the recommendations for the AstraZeneca shot.

Several provinces, including Saskatchewan, halted administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine to those under the age of 55 following new recommendations from NACI.

Moe said that he wants everyone to get the first vaccine they are offered and that everyone is Saskatchewan is guaranteed to get a vaccine that is safe for their age group.

He hopes to see doses of the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine before the end of April.