The Government of Saskatchewan is gearing up for a joint COVID-19 booster and influenza vaccination program in the fall.

However, officials have no plans to increase second booster eligibility at this time.

“We are not announcing any expansion at this point. We need more people currently eligible under the existing criteria to go and get their shots,” said a statement from the Ministry of Health.

Saskatchewan residents who are 50 years old or older are eligible for a second booster of COVID-19 vaccine. All adults living in long-term care, personal care or other senior congregate living settings are also eligible for a second booster.

“Right now (eligibility) is still going to be over 50 because that’s where we’ve seen the most impact from COVID,” said Health Minister Paul Merriman.

“If I can get one message out to everybody, please go in and get your booster shots as soon as you possibly can. It will protect you from any severe effects from COVID-19.”

There is the potential for COVID-19 transmission to spike again in the fall, according to the Ministry of Health.

The statement said a number of residents currently eligible have yet to receive their second and third doses. The ministry encourages these people to get their COVID-19 vaccinations this summer “to reduce transmission and severe outcomes this fall.”

In the province’s weekly COVID-19 update for June 12 to 18, officials said immunization rates for both primary and booster vaccinations “have remained stable for the last four weeks.”

As of June 18, 52.7 per cent of all adults and 49.4 per cent of people 12 and older had received at least one booster dose.

According to the ministry, unvaccinated individuals are three times more likely to be hospitalized and six times more likely to end up in intensive care or die due to COVID-19 compared to people with at least three doses of vaccine.

June 30 will be the last weekly COVID-19 update from the province before it switches to monthly reports at the recommendation of chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.

“We weren’t seeing a lot of activity in those reports,” Merriman said.

“We think this will paint a more accurate picture for COVID-19 as it is now, I think, the fourth or fifth highest respiratory illness in our province. There are other illnesses that are out there as well.”

Merriman said other jurisdictions have already made the reporting switch.

A three-week report will be released on July 21, covering the period of June 26 to July 16.

The first monthly report will be released on Aug. 18 for the period of July 17 to Aug. 13.

Epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine is “very disappointed” with the government’s data reporting approach. He said the information is already limited, adding further limitations will prevent people from doing their own risk assessments.

Muhajarine said people can likely manage without weekly updates in the summer, but he worries what information will be available if COVID-19 spikes in the fall. Without it, he said people will be operating in the dark.

“We want transparent and accurate data,” Muhajarine said.

“Numbers are everything. What gets measured and counted gets attention and gets done.”