February 12, 2021
The Hon. Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
Dear Minister Hajdu:
RE: Saskatchewan’s failure to prioritize all health care workers in its vaccine rollout
Recently, we learned that Saskatchewan has changed its priority list with respect to vaccination to exclude a significant proportion of the health care workforce, including doctors and nurses, from priority vaccination. Only those workers previously identified as at-risk in Phase 1 will be vaccinated as a priority, with all other health care workers vaccinated alongside the general population based on age groups.
This decision directly contradicts the national standards and guidelines as stipulated by Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunizations – the NACI. Based on all the available evidence and best practices for vaccination, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended that health care workers most at-risk should be prioritized in Phase 1, and all the remaining health care workers should be prioritized in Phase 2.
Saskatchewan’s vaccine rollout strategy also runs counter to the actions taken in every other province in Canada. All other provinces recognize in their vaccine rollout strategy that the risk of exposure is very high for all health care workers. Furthermore, to safeguard the overall capacity of the health care system, and to protect patients/residents, health
care workers must be vaccinated as soon as possible.
As you know, according to recent data compiled by Statistics Canada, over 65,000 health care workers across Canada have now been infected by COVID-19. This represents about 10% of total cumulative cases in Canada. At least 40 health care workers have died.
Every day, there are new outbreaks in acute care and long-term facilities across Canada resulting in new infections among workers, and potential exposures, meaning health care workers are forced to quarantine at home. The result is staff shortages and heavy workloads for those who remain on site, as well as the erosion of patient/resident care.
As the federal Minister of Health, we request your support for our frontline members and other frontline health care workers in Saskatchewan who will feel the effects of this decision. Ultimately, the people of Saskatchewan will suffer most, as they will be subjected to a higher risk if health care workers are not prioritized.
It would have a powerful impact if you would directly relay to the Moe government your disapproval of this approach, ensuring that all frontline health care workers are given priority status for vaccines across the country. Saskatchewan should be following the NACI guidelines, just as the other provinces and territories are doing.
I look forward to your early response and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further.
Linda Silas, CFNU President