REGINA -- The Saskatchewan Funeral Home association is asking that the roughly 500 workers who assist with end-of-life care in the province be among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

"Our mandate is to safely serve every family in Saskatchewan with care, dignity and respect. We are asking for you to please consider the death care profession as you roll out Phase 1 in the COVID-19 Vaccination process," said the association's president John Schachtel, in a letter shared with media.

"We know that the long term and acute care facilities are under pressure to stop the spread of this virus. As 'last responders' when there is a death, we are called into quarantined wards or facilities where our staff are being exposed at the greatest level."

Under the Saskatchewan government's vaccine delivery plan, health care workers, elderly residents in care homes, seniors over 80 and residents over 50 in remote northern communities are included in Phase 1.

In an emailed statement, the Ministry of Health said it's following the recommendations of national agencies, immunization experts and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization in determining who should be first in line to be vaccinated. 

"Additional priority groups" as well as the general population will have access to coronavirus immunizations during Phase 2 of the vaccine plane, tentatively set to begin in April, the ministry said.