Sask. reopen roadmap vaccination targets were 'waypoints': Dr. Shahab
Saskatchewan is eyeing the finish line for COVID-19 public health measures despite remaining short of its vaccination targets set out in the reopening roadmap
The province’s chief medical health officer is confident Saskatchewan can reopen safely.
"[The vaccination targets] were waypoints that tell us we’re moving in the right direction and that combined with our case numbers coming down, it sets us up well," Dr. Saqib Shahab told CTV News on Tuesday.
Over the weekend, Saskatchewan announced all public health measures would be lifted despite remaining short of its vaccination targets.
After surpassing one million total doses on Tuesday, the province has now reached the target of 70 per cent of residents 18-and-over with a first dose.
There are still more than 13,000 more doses needed to hit the 70 per cent mark of all eligible residents with one dose.
Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist and community health professor at the University of Saskatchewan, worries that lifting the restrictions could undermine the vaccine rollout with more than 30 per cent of residents still unvaccinated.
"If all the restrictions have been lifted, people don’t have any incentive, any motivation, to get a second dose because they’re already doing things that they’ve been wanting to do," he said.
Dr. Muhajarine believes reopening during the summer will provide the province additional protection from the virus spread growing and allow a buffer to push vaccination rates higher.
"It is kind of fortuitous that we are hitting that wall for the remaining 10 to 15 per cent of our first doses during summer months," he said. "It gives us a little bit of breathing room, but we shouldn't be relaxing, we shouldn't be shouldn't think that we have crossed the finish line."
An online survey by Leger and the Association of Canadian Studies found that a third of Saskatchewan residents are open to lifting all restrictions, which is the highest in Canada, while 58 per cent said it isn’t time yet, the lowest mark in the country.
"I’m ready to have everything open and get going," one Regina resident said.
Another added, "We’re heading in the right direction, but I think it’s still a little bit too early, I would still like to see more vaccinated."
"I know we’re not quite there, but we’re pretty close," added another resident. "I just want us to proceed cautiously."
Saskatchewan reported its lowest single day case numbers since October of last year on Tuesday.
Dr. Shahab said moving into summer will help keep case numbers low as more people are vaccinated.
"If there are clusters of cases, which may still happen, primarily if groups who are under-vaccinated or unvaccinated get together, that will unfortunately still happen and they will have to be managed," he said.
Dr. Muhajarine encouraged anyone who is vaccinated to talk about their vaccination to help others feel more willing to get the shot.
"We have to be very targeted in our messaging, but it's not only the government," he said. "There's no reason why we shouldn't be talking among our neighbours, or coworkers, among our friends and family, and let everyone know that you have got two doses, you're fully vaccinated, and you're happy about that."