Effective Friday, September 17, a province-wide mandatory masking order will be implemented for all indoor public spaces. 

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COVID-19 Vaccine Question and Answer

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1. General

Is the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?

No. Saskatchewan's immunization programs are voluntary. However, we strongly recommend that everyone who is eligible gets both doses of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series.

How does the vaccine protect against COVID-19?

mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response without using the live virus that causes COVID-19. Once triggered, our body then makes antibodies. These antibodies help us fight the infection if the real virus does enter our body in the future. The vaccine is given as a needle in the upper arm. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will require two doses.

Who should get the vaccine?

Anyone over the age of 12 who is eligible should receive a vaccine to protect against COVID-19. If you have concerns, discuss them with your healthcare provider.

What does it mean that a vaccine is "95% effective"?

Vaccine efficacy means how well the vaccine works or its ability to prevent the illness during clinical trials. Vaccine efficacy of 95% indicates a 95% reduction in disease occurrence among the vaccinated group.

Can I still get COVID-19 after vaccination?

COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are safe and effective. A small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 may still develop COVID-19 when exposed to the virus. The effectiveness of the available vaccines increases with two doses. It also takes a few weeks for the body to build antibodies in response to the vaccine. Information Sheets for each type of COVID-19 vaccine are available.

After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a PCR (molecular) or rapid antigen test?

None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines cause you to test positive on a lab-based PCR test or a rapid antigen test, which are used to see if you have a current infection. If your body develops an immune response to vaccination, which is the goal, you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody (or serology) tests indicate you have developed antibodies in your blood, either from a previous infection, or from immunization. Antibody tests are not used to diagnose a current infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Are there any groups who cannot tolerate/receive the vaccine at all?

Information Sheets for each type of COVID-19 vaccine are available. If you have concerns, you should talk to your health care provider.

What are the expected side effects?

There might be some mild symptoms a day or two after receiving the vaccine. The most common side effects are localized pain or redness or swelling at the injection site. Other symptoms may include mild fever, chills, headache, joint or muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, enlarged lymph nodes under the arm, or feeling tired. As with all vaccines, there's a chance that there will be a serious side effect, but these are rare. Information Sheets for each type of COVID-19 vaccine are available

All residents will be asked to report any adverse or unexpected reactions to 8-1-1.

Do you receive some protection from just one dose of the two-dose vaccines?

Protection is good with one dose, but the two-dose vaccines require a second dose in order to ensure the full immune system response. Full protection will help reduce the risk of transmission as well as preventing the most severe forms of the COVID-19 illness and death.

If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated for COVID-19 when the vaccine is available?

Vaccination is recommended even if you've had COVID-19. It is no longer a requirement to wait 90 days post-recovery. As long as you are recovered/no longer infectious you are able to be vaccinated.

Do I need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others once I have received two doses of the vaccine?

Restrictions around masking requirements and limits on gathering sizes will lift on July 11, 2021. Public health protection tools like wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently and maintaining physical distancing are still good practice. Risk diminishes as more people are vaccinated. Know your risk.

Once you have all long term care and personal care home residents vaccinated, will you be able to lift all the visitation restrictions?

Many visitor restrictions in long term care and personal care homes have already eased, permitting more visitors.

What brand of vaccine am I getting?

All of the vaccines being administered are effective and approved by Health Canada for use. All of them are important to help protect the public from severe illness and death from COVID-19. Information on what type of vaccine is being offered at specific locations is available using the booking tool/phone bookings. Information on vaccine type for drive-thru and walk-in/pop-up/mobile clinics is also available. Pharmacies will also advise which vaccine is being offered.

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2. SHA Patient Booking System

Who can use the booking system?
The patient booking system will be available to all citizens with internet access, including those living in border communities and those without Saskatchewan health cards, like new immigrants to our province.

What information do patients need in order to book an appointment in the online system?
Patients will be required to have a health card from any province, as well as a cell phone and/or valid email address, while also confirming their eligibility by using their birth date. Identification is also required when the appointment takes place, to ensure we are immunizing the same person that was registered to receive it. Patients will need their health card and immunization card if they've received their 1st dose.

What if I don't have a health card?
Users without a health card, or those requiring extra assistance are encouraged to use the telephone option to book their appointment.

Where do patients go to access the system and book their online appointment?
The tool can be accessed directly from the Saskatchewan.ca website at Saskatchewan.ca/covid19-vaccine or from saskhealthauthority.ca.

What about patients who don't use or have access to the internet?
Users who aren't comfortable with, or don't have access to technology can book by phone. Family and friends who aren't yet eligible can also book on behalf of someone who is eligible, either online or by phone.

The system is designed to verify a person's eligibility as their appointment is booked. Identification is also required at the time of the actual appointment.

How will I know when new age groups are eligible to book appointments?
Go to Saskatchewan.ca/covid19-vaccine. There is a launch button there to take you directly to the appointment booking. It will also say what age groups are currently eligible for booking appointments. The age groups eligible for booking vaccinations will also be in the daily government COVID news releases and in public service announcements.

How does the booking system protect patient privacy and data?
Protecting patient privacy was a paramount consideration when selecting a vendor for the booking system. The selected vendor meets all Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) security standards, policies and controls. Data is stored securely in Canadian data centres and is subject to Canadian data security laws.

Can the booking system be used for appointments other than the COVID vaccine?
The booking system will initially be used to book COVID vaccine appointments only.

What will patients be able to book online for in the future?
In the future, we may consider adding online booking for things like COVID testing, immunization clinics, laboratory services, and other identified services such as mental health and addictions. But initial the sole focus will be on COVID vaccine booking.

Why are you investing in this solution now?
The SHA is investing now to provide Saskatchewan with a modernized, patient-centred scheduling solution to support the immediate and urgent need for scheduling patient appointments. It is important that patients are kept at a safe social distance, staff have time to perform cleaning protocols, and patients have access to services in a convenient way.

Can I book into a pharmacy or physician's office by using this site?
Not at this time.

Will SHA still be contacting patients directly as they become eligible to receive the vaccine?
Once the online booking system is operational, we will be phasing out the existing process of direct phone-calls to eligible individuals. Eligible patients should feel empowered to access the new booking system and not wait for a phone call.

What do I do if the tool says there are no clinics in my area?
Saskatchewan has limited availability at this time, and especially in phase one, clinics will not be running every day in every part of the province. If there are no clinics near you, please try again to book your vaccine at a later date. Thank you for your patience.

Note that both patients and providers have the same access to schedule appointments. The telephone booking office will not have access to more appointments that what patients can see.

As phase 2 of Saskatchewan's immunization campaign begins, patients will have additional options to receive their vaccine, including drive-thru and mobile clinics, and at participating pharmacies.

Who can I talk to if I have questions about the tool or my appointment?
Anyone with technical issues or other questions are encouraged to call the booking system directly at HealthLine 811.

Can I call the booking office with general inquiries about the vaccine?
No, the booking office is only available for those eligible to book appointments. Staff will not be taking general inquiry calls about the vaccine or any other subject.

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3. Telephone Booking System/Office

Do staff working at the telephone booking office have medical training?
No, booking agents have no medical training. They are trained not to answer any clinical questions. Their function is highly scripted in order to facilitate booking vaccine appointments only. The call centre has a close connection with HealthLine 811 to access their nursing staff and also 911 in the event of an emergency.

What does the hours of operation of the telephone booking office look like?
The booking office will run 8 am to 9 pm, 7 days per week.

Will patients have the ability to book vaccinations 24/7?
The online patient booking system is the fastest way to get your appointment, and is available 24/7. 

How confident are we that the telephone line will be able to handle the extremely high volumes that are anticipated?
We are making every effort to make the experience as seamless as possible.

During initial testing, it was determined that utilizing the 811 call centre, combined with the volumes we expect, may jeopardize other critical, clinical systems that the health centre needs. For that reason, are establishing an independent phone line, separate from the 811 system, to address this problem.

The booking office will have the ability to scale up to meet demands. However, the online patient booking system is the fastest way to get your appointment, and is available 24/7. It's simple to use and only takes a few minutes.

Our commitment remains to timely, accurate and safe service to our clients.

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4. Use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine in Specific Age Groups

On March 24, 2021 Health Canada issued guidance on the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine, following European reports of rare but serious cases of blood clots associated with low levels of platelets. Based on NACI’s recommendations, Saskatchewan paused AstraZeneca vaccine use in all individuals less than 55 years of age. On April 20, 2021 the government announced Saskatchewan would be using AstraZeneca vaccine to immunize adults 40 years and older (beginning April 28, 2021). AstraZeneca vaccine was integrated into the provincial vaccination roll-out plan, although Saskatchewan stopped administering first-doses of AstraZeneca as of May 6 and as increasing supplies of other vaccines became available. 

What exactly has been documented in these cases of blood clots in Europe?

  • The UK and EU have reported rare cases of serious blood clots associated with low blood platelets after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. To date, the majority have occurred within 4-28 days after vaccination.
  • Cases identified so far have been primarily in women under the age of 55 years.
  • This very rare, adverse event is being referred to as “Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia” (VITT). 
  • This adverse event has not been reported following receipt of Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines (mRNA vaccines). 

Is VITT treatable?

Yes. The outcome of VITT can be serious, but it can be treated if diagnosed early.

Were any risk factors identified as increasing an individual’s risk for VITT?

At this time no other risk factors have consistently been identified in patients who develop VITT. 

If you have received the Astra Zeneca vaccine what should you watch for?

There is no cause for concern for anyone who was vaccinated with AstraZeneca more than 28 days ago. 
Anyone vaccinated with AstraZeneca less than 28 days ago should monitor for specific symptoms, and seek immediate medical attention in the unlikely event that any arise. Symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  •  chest pain
  • leg swelling
  • persistent abdominal pain
  • sudden onset of severe or persistent worsening headaches or blurred vision
  • skin bruising (other than at the site of vaccination)
  • seizures

The same is true for anyone who receives the AstraZeneca vaccine going forward. In the rare cases where blood clots have developed, it has been within 28 days of the vaccine.

It’s important to note that the risk of serious, adverse reactions such as blood clots is extremely low. 

If I received my first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, will I get AstraZeneca for my second dose or another COVID-19 vaccine?

On June 1, 2021 the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released guidance on the interchangeability of COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada. It allows for the potential of receiving a different type of COVID-19 vaccine for your second dose than you received for your first dose. The provincial vaccination roll-out plan will incorporate this guidance to ensure safe and rapid deployment of vaccines to residents. NACI's recommendations are based on current scientific evidence of the vaccines and expert review. This means:

  • AstraZeneca: People who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine may receive either AstraZeneca vaccine or an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) for their second dose, unless contraindicated. 
  • Pfizer, Moderna: People who received a first dose of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) should be offered the same mRNA vaccine for their second dose. If the same mRNA vaccine is not readily available or unknown, another mRNA vaccine can be considered interchangeable and should be offered to complete the vaccine series.

For practical purposes, especially in communities where there is limited supply/brands, it is permissible to mix mRNA brands if it otherwise means the patient would be required to delay their second dose or travel an onerous distance in order to receive a matching brand.

Saskatchewan anticipates having an adequate supply of vaccine in order to provide residents with second doses. All vaccines approved in Canada are safe. Health Canada and provincial public health officials will be monitoring the interchangeability of vaccines to ensure effective protection against COVID-19.  All residents need to receive two doses of the two-dose vaccines in order to achieve the best possible protection.  


Starting June 6, the Saskatchewan Health Authority will be establishing clinics for second doses of AstraZeneca to anyone who is eligible, according to the provincial age eligibility and date of first dose. AstraZeneca is no longer being administered for first doses. Details on clinic locations and hours will be announced this week. Note that not all vaccine types are available at all clinic locations; vaccine type available by clinic is listed when that clinic is advertised. 

Based on when your age category or date of first dose deems you eligible for your second dose, you may receive the second dose of your AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as 28 days after your first dose. This includes those Saskatchewan residents under 40 who received AstraZeneca as their first dose. Once you are eligible to receive your second dose, you remain eligible and may consider delaying until the recommended 8-12 week interval is reached (note that vaccine choice will be dependent on those vaccines that are available at the time you make your appointment).  

You will not be required to receive AstraZeneca as a second dose. Anyone who received AstraZeneca as a first dose is eligible to receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for their second dose if that is their preference. 

AstraZeneca guidance keeps changing. How do I know if this vaccine is safe?

  • Once a vaccine has been reviewed and approved by Health Canada, it is considered safe and effective for use. Canada has a comprehensive vaccine safety monitoring system to alert public health to changing trends or serious, unexpected or unusual adverse events. These alerts trigger expert medical reviews to identify any safety concerns and respond to these quickly and appropriately. This is an essential part of the Government of Canada's ongoing robust vaccine safety monitoring to ensure the continued quality, safety and effectiveness of all vaccines and other health products that are in use in Canada.
  • The benefit of receiving any COVID-19 vaccine outweighs the risks of getting COVID-19 disease.
     

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