Saskatchewan looks to delay second vaccine dose to speed up immunizations

REGINA — Saskatchewan is looking to follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations.

Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab says information from that province as well as from Quebec and the United Kingdom suggests that a first shot effectively protects against the novel coronavirus.

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He says he hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose.

Shahab says if that were to happen, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot.

He says all adults in the province could be vaccinated with a first dose by June.

Premier Scott Moe says such a shift would be agame-changerfor how long public-health restrictions would stay in place.

"What that (would) look like over the course of the next number of weeks as opposed to having that conversation over the course of the next number of months," Moe said during a briefing Tuesday.

The province said when it first outlined its vaccine rollout that it would wait between 21 and 28 days between shots as recommended by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.

The province says about 80,000 vaccinations have been given across the province. It says at least one of the approved vaccines to fight COVID-19 has made its way into every long-term care home.

Health officials say 91 per cent of residents opted to get their first shot of the two-dose vaccination. Second doses have gone into the arms of long-term residents in about 53 per cent of facilities.

The province says it expects to receive about 15,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot approved by Canada last week. Shahab says Saskatchewan will follow advice from a national panel of vaccine experts that it be used on people under 65.

The vaccine's effectiveness in people older than that hasn't been sufficiently determined because there were not enough seniors in clinical trials.

Another 134 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Tuesday as well as two deaths.

Shahab and Moe say daily case numbers and hospitalizations have stabilized and continue to decrease — signs they say could lead to some public-health measures being relaxed.

Moe said he would like to see some way for people to have visitors in their homes. That hasn't been allowed under public-health orders since before Christmas.

The current health order is to expire March 19. Moe said his government could provide details as soon as next week on what restrictions might be eased.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 2, 2021

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