SASKATOON - A week after NDP Leader Ryan Meili called for incentives to address Saskatchewan’s slow first dose numbers, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is going ahead with a lottery and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced a lottery over the weekend. Meili called on the Sask. Party government to revisit their position against providing an incentive program in Saskatchewan.
“Premier Scott Moe’s failed leadership didn’t move quickly enough to protect Saskatchewan families and businesses from the second and third waves of COVID-19,” said Meili. “Now as we are looking forward to re-opening our province, it’s crucial that our vaccine roll-out does not suffer the same fate.”
The government’s committed to ending mask mandates and gathering restrictions once 70% of people 12 and older have their first dose. 33,227 people still need their first dose, meaning nearly 5000 first shots a day are needed in the next week to meet the July 11 target. Unfortunately, the 7-day average for first doses is under 3000 a day and rapidly declining. Worse, that rate lags behind other provinces and is well below the national average.
“This government set a target date for ending restrictions and ending the mask mandate with only one metric - first dose vaccination rates. Even if this reached in the time frame they set out, it’s clear that our first dose uptake is not where it should be,” said Health Critic Vicki Mowat. “The Premier and the Minister of Health owe us all an explanation as to what has gone wrong - and a real plan to fix it.”
New Democrats have called for a “Last Mile” vaccine strategy including proposing a vaccine lottery and the possibility for other incentives like scholarships and smaller cash prizes. Other elements of the plan include:
- Working directly with individual Saskatchewan residents who have not yet been vaccinated to both make a personal vaccine plan and address questions about safety and efficacy
- Training SHA callers to address these questions for those who have not yet been vaccinated
- Working with trusted community leaders to promote vaccine acceptability and uptake in key communities
- Mobile clinics to be deployed to areas of low vaccine uptake, work places and public spaces
- Trusting experts to mobilize and replicate the plan for the second shot strategy
“We know that there are real obstacles to reaching herd immunity, which has to be the ultimate goal to guard against new variants as we re-open,” said Meili. “One of the main problems is that the government refuses to be transparent and refuses to disclose vaccination rates at the community level. Saskatchewan people need to have all the information available on how we can finally put this pandemic behind us.”