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Saskatchewan is expanding the age limit for who can get vaccinated at a drive-thru clinic in Regina as the number of variant cases in the city continues to grow.

Health officials say the clinic is open for people 67 to 69 years old to get a first shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which a national immunization committee now recommends for people 65 and older.

The clinic is currently open to people who are 60 to 64 and has been doing vaccinations since Monday.

Providing 15,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Regina has been part of the Saskatchewan Party government’s strategy to deal with a rising caseload of more infectious COVID-19 strains in the capital.

Health officials say 368 of 433 probable variant cases in the province are in and around Regina.

Most of the 135 confirmed cases from the strain known as B.1.1.7 and first identified in the United Kingdom have also been detected in the region.

Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson: Which COVID-19 vaccine will I get in Canada?

Canada pre-purchased millions of doses of seven different vaccine types, and Health Canada has approved four so far for the various provincial and territorial rollouts. All the drugs are fully effective in preventing serious illness and death, though some may do more than others to stop any symptomatic illness at all (which is where the efficacy rates cited below come in).

PFIZER-BIONTECH

  • Also known as: Comirnaty
  • Approved on: Dec. 9, 2020
  • Efficacy rate: 95 per cent with both doses in patients 16 and older, and 100 per cent in 12- to 15-year-olds
  • Traits: Must be stored at -70 C, requiring specialized ultracold freezers. It is a new type of mRNA-based vaccine that gives the body a sample of the virus’s DNA to teach immune systems how to fight it. Health Canada has authorized it for use in people as young as 12.

MODERNA

  • Also known as: SpikeVax
  • Approved on: Dec. 23, 2020
  • Efficacy rate: 94 per cent with both doses in patients 18 and older, and 100 per cent in 12- to 17-year-olds
  • Traits: Like Pfizer’s vaccine, this one is mRNA-based, but it can be stored at -20 C. It’s approved for use in Canada for ages 12 and up.

OXFORD-ASTRAZENECA

  • Also known as: Vaxzevria
  • Approved on: Feb. 26, 2021
  • Efficacy rate: 62 per cent two weeks after the second dose
  • Traits: This comes in two versions approved for Canadian use, the kind made in Europe and the same drug made by a different process in India (where it is called Covishield). The National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s latest guidance is that its okay for people 30 and older to get it if they can’t or don’t want to wait for an mRNA vaccine, but to guard against the risk of a rare blood-clotting disorder, all provinces have stopped giving first doses of AstraZeneca.

JOHNSON & JOHNSON

  • Also known as: Janssen
  • Approved on: March 5, 2021
  • Efficacy rate: 66 per cent two weeks after the single dose
  • Traits: Unlike the other vaccines, this one comes in a single injection. NACI says it should be offered to Canadians 30 and older, but Health Canada paused distribution of the drug for now as it investigates inspection concerns at a Maryland facility where the active ingredient was made.

How many vaccine doses do I get?

All vaccines except Johnson & Johnson’s require two doses, though even for double-dose drugs, research suggests the first shots may give fairly strong protection. This has led health agencies to focus on getting first shots to as many people as possible, then delaying boosters by up to four months. To see how many doses your province or territory has administered so far, check our vaccine tracker for the latest numbers.

Another 115 new COVID-19 infections were reported Thursday, along with one death of someone in their 80s.

There were 136 people in hospital, with 27 in intensive care.

The province reported having done around 118,000 vaccinations.

Saskatchewan also announced people will get paid time off from work to get their first dose of vaccine.

The province said it has amended its occupational health and safety regulations to allow employees to get a special leave from their jobs to get inoculated.

The change takes effect immediately and means an employee is entitled to take three consecutive hours off to receive a shot without losing any pay or benefits.

The government said employees can take more than three hours off if an employer determines that’s warranted.

A spokesman said the vaccination leave applies to people getting their first shot.

Saskatchewan is delaying second shots by up to four months to speed up how many people get their first dose. First shots offer some protection against COVID-19 and it’s hoped the delay will achieve some level of herd immunity by mid-June.

Labour Minister Don Morgan said in a statement that he wants everyone in the province to get a shot.

Health officials added that the cut-off age for people to book vaccinations has dropped to 67, down from 70.

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