ontario news watch

Saskatchewan makes AstraZeneca vaccine available to those 40 and up

REGINA — Saskatchewan is dropping the age at which people can receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to 40 from 55.

Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia have done the same. Quebec announced earlier Tuesday that it was dropping the age to 45.

“In the short term this isn’t going to make much of a difference because, unlike some other areas of Canada, Saskatchewan has already used up the bulk of the supply of AstraZeneca doses that we received,” said Premier Scott Moe at a news conference.

“What’s left is already allocated to a bunch of appointments across Saskatchewan.”

The province said it has about 15,000 doses of AstraZeneca, but less than 9,000 doses are available.

Moe said it’s expected that eligibility for all vaccines will be lowered to 44 on Thursday and to 40 by April 28.

At that time, he said, remaining first responders and front-line workers will be prioritized — including police officers, firefighters, correctional staff and teachers.

“The only reason we are having this discussion about who should receive priority is that in the province, and this nation, we simply don’t have enough vaccines available,” said Moe.

“This week Saskatchewan will only receive just over 30,000 vaccines. That’s about a two- or three-day supply at the pace we are capable of moving.”

Saskatchewan has faced increased pressure to prioritize teachers in its vaccination plan after an influential Cree teacher died from COVID-19.

Saskatchewan reported 249 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. As well, for the first time in the province five cases of the variant first identified in Brazil.

There were 195 people in hospital due to COVID-19 including 51 in intensive care.

“With respect to the hospitalizations here in Saskatchewan, yeah, they’re higher than I think anyone would like to see,” Moe said.

“With the concentration of variants of concern here in Regina we do have significant pressure on our ICU here in Regina. We do need to keep an eye on our health-care capacity.”

The government also extended all existing public-health measures until May 10.

Saskatchewan tightened its restrictions two weeks ago provincewide on group sizes and limited how many people can attend worship services as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to surge.

Public-health orders only allow people living under the same roof to be present in a home. Private gatherings of up to 10 people from one or two other households had been allowed indoors.

Church gatherings are restricted to no more than 30 people.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021.

The Canadian Press