Sask. to start school-based COVID-19 vaccination program in June
REGINA -- The Saskatchewan government announced Tuesday it will start vaccinating students in high schools and elementary schools across the province in June.
The province said students will only receive the Pfizer vaccine. More than 90,000 doses will be designated for the 12-plus age group.
Exact start dates have not been determined yet, but the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said it is in talks with officials and school sequencing will be based on available resources, though the health authority said it will try and prioritize high school students initially.
Clinics operated by the SHA, including drive-thru and walk-ins, will be scaled back and will only run from Friday to Sunday during the three-week rollout in schools to make sure students can get a vaccine before the end of the school year. Pre-booked appointments will not be available through the SHA, though pharmacy appointments will continue to operate as usual.
“We’re going to have to reorganize a little bit within the SHA to accommodate the school rollout, because obviously there’s a lot of children that need to be done,” said SHA CEO Scott Livingstone. “The good news is we have them as a captive audience in schools, so we can vaccinate a lot of kids at one moment in time.”
If students do not want to wait until the immunization program starts in schools, they will be able to access the vaccine through a walk-in, drive-thru or pharmacy administering the Pfizer vaccine or by booking an appointment online or over the phone.
“This is a good opportunity for everybody to get out and get vaccinated. The more people we have vaccinated, the higher our numbers go, the faster we can get back into recovery,” said Health Minister Paul Merriman.
According to the government, written consent will be needed for students age 12 to 17. Consent will only need to be given one time for the two doses.
Teens age 13 to 17 are able to give consent themselves under Saskatchewan law. Health officials are encouraging parents and guardians to talk to kids about the importance of vaccines.
“It’s very important for the family to sit down and talk about getting vaccinated and having those conversations – particularly with the kids, regardless of their age – to ensure that there’s no nervousness or hesitancy about receiving the vaccine,” said Livingstone.
Students will have to wait a minimum of 21 days before they get their second dose. The province said it expects to be able to provide second doses to students in July and August. School-based vaccinations programs might run in the fall if second dose uptake is slower than anticipated.
As of Tuesday, Saskatchewan residents age 16 and older are eligible to get the vaccine at a participating pharmacy, drive-thru or walk-in clinic, or by booking an appointment with the SHA online or over the phone. Residents age 12 and older are expected to be eligible on Thursday.