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News release: SMA calls for immediate vaccination of all essential workers including physicians and health-care workers

April 7, 2021 – For immediate release

Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) president Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz is gravely concerned that the government’s refusal to immediately vaccinate essential workers, including physicians and health-care workers who have not yet received their shots, will result in more lost lives and long-term illness due to COVID-19, and put non-COVID patients at even greater risk given delays in the services and care they need.

“COVID-19 is mutating into variants of concern (VOC) that threaten to overwhelm Saskatchewan’s health system. The virus is adapting. We ask the government to show flexibility and adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances of the pandemic,” Dr. Konstantynowicz said.

“Essential workers face a daily threat of contracting COVID-19 through their interactions with people. Physicians and health-care workers who have not been vaccinated put their health, and the health of their co-workers, families and friends, at risk simply by providing care to their patients,” Dr. Konstantynowicz continued. “They need to be vaccinated immediately. Failure to do so jeopardizes the safety of physicians and health-care workers, as well as police officers, teachers, grocery workers, and others who are on the front line and are most at risk.”

Dr. Konstantynowicz had advised Health Minister Paul Merriman on the urgent need to vaccinate all physicians and health-care workers, echoing the concerns of other health organizations in Saskatchewan and across the country. However, on Tuesday Minister Merriman and Premier Scott Moe both confirmed the government would not change the age-based system, saying targeting specific groups now would slow down the vaccination process for all Saskatchewan residents.

“Saskatchewan has had one of the most effective and nimble vaccine distribution processes to date in Canada. I believe that the vaccine distribution effort would be ready and able to adapt to change as needed,” Dr. Konstantynowicz said.

The government’s position fails to account for the acceleration of VOCs in Saskatchewan, she said. The Regina area remains a hot spot, with intensive care units strained to capacity. The number of identified VOC cases is growing among young people and across southern Saskatchewan and now in the Saskatoon area.

“We need to use all opportunities in the battle against COVID-19 and its VOCs wisely,” Dr. Konstantynowicz said. “The current age-based vaccination strategy will not get us through the challenges the province is facing.”

Dr. Konstantynowicz added further restrictions are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its variants more widely in communities. “While VOC cases continue to spike and are affecting more people, and increasingly more young people, we need to do all we can to protect everyone in our communities.”

The Saskatchewan Medical Association (www.sma.sk.ca) is a voluntary, member-based, professional association for physicians, medical students and residents in the province and it is the provincial chapter of the Canadian Medical Association. As the trusted voice of Saskatchewan’s practising physicians, the SMA supports the educational, professional, economic and personal well-being of physicians; and advocates for a high-quality and patient-centred health-care system.

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