More vaccinations needed before long-term care restrictions can be eased: province

Saskatchewan and the nation as a whole is seeing hiccups the early days of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

On Jan. 19, the federal government explained that it would not be receiving any of the Pfizer vaccine the following week. The New Democratic Party pointed out a Regina facility didn’t have enough vaccine for all its assisted-care clients in addition to its long-term care clients on Jan. 18. But eventually, the residents and staff of long-term care facilities, the provinces’ highest priority for the vaccine distribution, will be fully vaccinated.

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Will we see restrictions start to lift for those people, or will they have to wait six months?

At the regular COVID-19 briefing on Jan. 19 in the Legislature, both Premier Scott Moe and chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab replied to that question.

“I think that’s really important,” Shahab said. “The main thing right now is we have been very cautious because the vaccination rate is coming up very slowly.”

He said at the present that it’s important to adhere to all public health measures while vaccinations are underway.

“Once we have the vast majority of the population vaccinated, especially adults with that underlying risk factors, but also broadly all adults, I think then we can cautiously start looking at how we relax our public health measures over the summer, likely that will start happening.”

Moe said it ties into hospitalizations, and it is still a couple months early for this discussion.

“But the fact of the matter is, as we are able to access vaccines for the most vulnerable in our population, the elderly in our population, and start creeping those vaccines and the availability of those vaccines down through the age groups in society, it does beg the question: when will we be able to start to look at relaxing the measures that we have in place?”

The premier said he would point back to the hospitalization rate.

“As we work our way through the age groups, and we start to see our hospitalizations decreasing in significant fashion, that would speak to the fact that we have many of those that are more vulnerable in our community receiving the vaccine and not contracting COVID-19, and not as a point, I think, when we could have a little more open conversation about what the future looks like for Saskatchewan,” he said.

“So two things on that: that isn't in the in the next number of weeks, that will be the next number of months. And this speaks to the importance of us, as Canadians and us, looking to our Canadian government to do everything they can to procure as many vaccines as they can, and to do so in as the shortest timeframe as possible.”

Moe said he agrees with Ontario Premier Doug Ford that Prime Minister should talk to the CEO of Pfizer about increasing the vaccine supply available to Canadians.

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