ontario news watch

Saskatchewan shifts COVID-19 vaccine bookings to make room for school shots

REGINA — The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it will shift COVID-19 vaccine appointments to pharmacies and clinics run by Indigenous Services Canada to make room for school immunizations.

The province says it wants to make sure students can be immunized before the end of the school year.

Officials with the health authority say they will start delivering COVID-19 vaccines in elementary and high schools in early June, though no dates have been finalized.

“We are working with the local schools to make sure those align as much as possible with school schedules and other commitments like graduations and exams,” said Derek Miller, the authority’s executive director of infrastructure management.

The health authority, he said, wants to operate in schools during the normal school week to take advantage of having a “captive audience” of students who can all be vaccinated at one-time.

CEO Scott Livingstone added that parents will play a key role in this stage of the vaccine rollout.

“Many of you (parents) have yourself received vaccines, and we encourage you to talk with your children to address any questions or fears they may have in advance of their immunizations,” he said Tuesday.

“Celebrate with your kids when they say yes to COVID immunization and choose to protect themselves, their family and our province.”

The province said parental consent will be needed for children to receive the vaccine. It has promised more than 90,000 vaccines in total for children 12 and older.

Youth are currently only eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

While the in-school rollout is taking place, Livingstone said the health authority will transfer booked appointments to pharmacies and Indigenous Services Canada.

Students who are home-schooled or want a vaccine before their school offers it will be able, like adults, to get their shot at a pharmacy or a clinic. 

Saskatchewan also laid out its strategy Tuesday for delivering second doses. 

Starting Monday, residents who are 85 and older or those who received their first dose by Feb. 15 are eligible to book their second dose. Residents who are 70 and older or those who received their first dose by March 15 will be eligible for their second dose by the end of May.

Health Minister Paul Merriman praised young people in the province for “doing their part” to get their shots as the province delivered record-high numbers of vaccines over the weekend. 

“Fifty-nine per cent of all Saskatchewan adults have now received their first shot,” said Merriman. 

“To put that in context, the U.S. today is at 60 per cent of all adults with one shot, according to the CDC. Not long ago, we were way behind the U.S.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 18, 2021.

— By Julia Peterson in Saskatoon. 

The Canadian Press