REGINA — Saskatchewan is extending its COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan to include children aged 12 and older with expected first doses by the end of the school year.
Officials told a news conference Thursday the vaccines will be administered in school-based programs, pharmacies and clinics.
Health Minister Paul Merriman said the plan to offer shots in schools and timelines, as well as the parental consent process, are still being finalized.
When the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available in schools, the province said parents can expect to hear from public health officials and from their school divisions.
The announcement comes a day after Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12 and up.
Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, said vaccine trials in younger children remain underway.
"We fully expect those trials to be very positive in terms of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines," he said. "We fully expect that by July or August, we will have information on vaccinations in children under 11.
"We don’t expect them to be very different from the vaccinations that are already available."
Also Thursday, the province reported 156 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of active infections to 2,158. There were 173 people in hospital due to the virus, and 41 of them were in intensive care.
The province said that later this month it will begin scheduling second vaccine doses for those 85 and older, or those who received their first dose before Feb. 15. The second-dose rollout is to be offered to people in the same sequence as the first doses.
And while first shots will continue to be offered at the same time as second doses, Merriman said he expects minimal overlap.
"It’s going to happen so quickly, it will only be a couple days’ overlap," he said.
The province is also delivering vaccines to pharmacies, a process that Merriman said is going "extremely well."
He encouraged everybody who is eligible for their first or second dose to get it.
"After 14 long months, we are finally getting past the point of controlling COVID-19," said Merriman.
"We are now in a position where we can beat COVID-19. But there’s only one way to do that, and that’s by everybody getting vaccinated … the end is in sight, but we have to keep going."
Officials project that all Saskatchewan adults will be eligible to book their second dose by July 31.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2021.
— By Julia Peterson in Saskatoon