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Manitoba, Sask. changing vaccine strategies, Sask. shifting to "targeted outreach"

Manitoba set to provide vaccines for childhood diseases through clinics, schools, Sask. moving away from larger clinics
doses
COVID-19 vaccine vials in a row, macro close up.

The province announced August 11 that vaccine doses to prevent HPV, hepatitis B, meningococcal disease and tetanus, diphtheria could now be made through an immunization catch-up program. Doses and boosters to prevent these diseases are typically provided through school, but access to the doses had been spotty during the pandemic.

Doses for those vaccines - as well as COVID-19 vaccine doses, for eligible students - will also be made available in schools throughout the province as part of Manitoba's provincial back-to-school plan, which was released last week.

Appointments can be made for those doses at the provincial vaccine hotline at 1-844-626-8222.

In Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has also announced plans to switch up the province’s vaccination strategy, shifting from holding large by-appointment clinics and drive-thru sites - equivalent to Manitoba’s “super-sites” to smaller, targeted dose clinics.

“Effective August 8, the SHA will be shifting our focus to targeted outreach, discontinuing drive-thru and most appointment booked clinics. This approach allows for outreach to communities where immunization is needed the most,” reads an SHA news release.

“COVID-19 immunizations will continue after August 8, but through walk-in/pop-up clinics at public venues throughout the province, as well as through participating community pharmacies by appointment.”

It is unclear how the SHA announcement will impact Creighton or Denare Beach - both communities where the vaccine uptake rate has been well below provincial and national averages. Drive-thru clinics have recently been hosted in both Creighton and in Flin Flon, Sask. in the past month.

Manitoba's total COVID-19 vaccination numbers sit at 80.6 per cent of eligible people with first doses and 73.2 per cent with second doses - just short of the 75 per cent number announced as the trigger for the next stage of Manitoba's reopening plan, which will likely involve removing all remaining public health orders. About 1.84 million total doses have been given out in the province, including both first and second doses.

The Flin Flon/Snow Lake/Cranberry Portage/Sherridon health district is below provincial numbers, with only a 74.1 per cent vaccine uptake.

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan is sitting at around 75.4 per cent of eligible people with at least one dose and 65.2 per cent with a second dose - well below the national average for both numbers. About 1.3 million doses have been given in Saskatchewan. As of August 5, about 62 per cent of people in Creighton and Flin Flon, Sask. are at least partially vaccinated, while less than half of all eligible people in Denare Beach have received a vaccine dose.

According to Saskatchewan provincial data, only 16,630 Saskatchewan residents received either a first or second dose of COVID-19 vaccine last week - less than half of the attendance of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ home opener August 7, which allowed fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated and unvaccinated fans into Mosaic Stadium without masks or distancing.

Meanwhile, in the first end-of-month report for July, Saskatchewan health officials reported that 1,220 cases were found province-wide in the month of July.

“With the number of COVID-19 cases rising again in Saskatchewan, the Ministry of Health is reporting that those new cases and serious outcomes from those cases are overwhelmingly among unvaccinated people,” reads the announcement, which was published online August 9.

More than three-quarters of those cases were found in people who were either unvaccinated or who tested positive within three weeks of getting their first dose. About 15 per cent of those cases were in people with a first dose of vaccine, while about nine per cent of cases were found in people who had received both doses of vaccine. The province did not disclose whether the nine per cent of people with two doses who tested positive had tested positive within two weeks of their second dose.

About a third of the cases found in Saskatchewan were in people 19 years old or under, with about 20 per cent of the cases found in children under 12 who are not currently approved to receive vaccine doses.

“Children can contract, transmit and become ill with COVID-19 though the risk for serious health outcomes is lower than older populations. If you are fully vaccinated, all activities with children will be considered lower risk,” reads the provincial announcement.

Of the 20 people taken to Saskatchewan ICUs in July, only one person was fully vaccinated - though once again, the province did not say if the person had also met the two-week post-vaccine period. Four people died in the province - all of whom were not fully vaccinated.