REGINA - The Saskatchewan government has announced its plans to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11 years old.
At a news conference Monday morning in Regina, it was announced that Saskatchewan Health Authority will offer the vaccines to children in every part of the province, with 221 clinics in 141 communities. These will be similar to the clinics set up before for adults.
The province also said clinics will be set up in more than 100 schools with a focus on ensuring parent or guardian attendance to support the children. Most of these clinics will operate outside of traditional school hours.
Information on in-school clinics will be shared with parents and students directly. Parents and families are being urged to seek out clinics close to home to get their children inoculated.
According to the province, there will be a variety of clinics offered including walk-in, booked appointments and extended hours for added convenience. Vaccinations will also be available for five- to 11-year-olds from Indigenous Services Canada, Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority and participating pharmacies.
Up north, Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority will immunize children in 33 on-reserve communities. Those vaccine clinics will be held in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner.
Community pharmacies will be offering vaccines as well across the province. Information about pharmacies can be found at www.Saskatchewan.ca/COVID19-vaccine once the pharmacies have received their supply of vaccine.
The announcement by the province comes on the heels of Friday’s announcement that Health Canada has approved use of the Pfizer vaccine for ages five to 11. It will be a smaller volume offered to children compared to the dose for the adult population. According to the province, the dosage is .2 ml compared to .3 ml for adults, and the time being recommended between doses is being recommended at eight weeks. As well, the vaccine can stay thawed for a longer period of up to 10 weeks.
According to Dr. Tania Diener, one of the leads for the province's vaccine strategy who spoke at the news conference, the evidence is showing the longer eight-week period between doses will "likely have a more robust and more durable protection and better efficacy."
This is emerging evidence based on what is being seen in the adult population, she said. Should parents want to have the second dose at an interval less than eight weeks, they will accommodate that "as long as they understand why the recommendation is being made."
According to the province, more than 112,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in Saskatchewan within the coming days, which will be enough to immunize every child in that age group. Parent or guardian consent will be required.
Vaccines will begin to arrive starting Tuesday and Wednesday in the larger centres and those centres will start their clinics Wednesday. Rural and remote locations will begin Friday.
In the first couple of weeks the SHA will focus on clinics that can accommodate large volumes of patients and offer extended weekend hours.
The clinics will be open to pediatric booking starting Tuesday morning at 8 a.m., and in the coming weeks there will be walk-in clinics offered as well.
People are encouraged to seek out information about the vaccines from www.Saskatchewan.ca/COVID19-vaccine and from reputable sources. Further information can also be found at thisisourshot.ca.
"This is welcome news for families that want the protection that immunization provides for their children against serious disease," Health Minister Paul Merriman said in a statement. "The immunization of this age cohort will also help to reduce transmission of the virus and ensure that children can continue to enjoy their friends and activities."
This is a breaking news story, stay tuned for further updates.