The Saskatchewan government is set to unveil its COVID-19 vaccination plan next week, relying in part on the province’s experience delivering the H1N1 vaccine.
On Wednesday, Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman said the government developed a “very robust” plan more than a decade ago in response to the H1N1 (or swine flu) pandemic in 2009, which included the involvement of current chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.
University of Saskatchewan (USask) medical anthropologist Pamela Downe said there will likely be numerous similarities, including the fact that the coronavirus vaccine will arrive in multiple stages. She told Global News there will also be close safety monitoring surrounding transportation and storage.
However, there are new obstacles in the current pandemic.
“Transporting and storing those vaccines are going to require a whole different level of infrastructure, but we do have the capacity for that infrastructure,” Downe said.
The Pfizer vaccine in particular needs unprecedented, ultra-cold storage. Downe said social distancing protocols will also mean there won’t be mass gatherings of people waiting to get vaccinated like the province has seen at past flu clinics.
Unlike the H1N1 pandemic, seniors in long-term care will be the top priority. In 2009, the provincial government announced plans to vaccinate children first because they were the greatest vectors for transmission. Health-care workers have been prioritized in both pandemics.
The greatest challenge in stopping COVID-19 with a vaccine, Downe said, will likely be reaching out to be people who might be hesitant to get the shot.