COVID-19 restrictions in Saskatchewan may have lifted this past Sunday, but it doesn’t mean the threat of COVID-19 has disappeared from the province.
Officials say the lifting of restrictions make it especially important to get both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to have greater protection against the virus.
“Once you are two weeks after your second dose, that is our best protection right now against COVID, and will be for the foreseeable future,” said chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab in a news conference last week.
A medical professional in the province says the people showing up in ICUs are those who have not been vaccinated or have only received one dose of a vaccine.
Dr. Hassan Masri, an ICU specialist in Saskatoon, said there has been a shift since the beginning of the pandemic in terms of who he is seeing.
“Maybe 14 months ago or 10 months ago, unfortunately, we were having patients who had COVID-19 with or without co-morbidities, who landed in the ICU because they were really sick,” Masri told CBC News’ The Morning Edition on Tuesday.
“However, in the last almost six weeks or so, we’ve seen a very clear pattern, which is that most, if not all of our [COVID-19] patients in the ICU were folks who did not receive their vaccines.”
He said medical professionals find caring for those patients extremely challenging, because they have often made the conscious decision to not get vaccinated despite repeated urgings from multiple levels of government and experts.
The province said that of 102 COVID-19-related hospitalizations that occurred in June, 66 were unvaccinated or had received their first dose of the vaccine less than three weeks before.
Thirty-one people who were hospitalized had received their first dose more than three weeks, while only five of those hospitalized people had received their second dose.
The province said that none of the 21 people who received intensive care in June had received a second dose of a vaccine.
Over the month of June, 15 people died as a result of the coronavirus in Saskatchewan. Officials say all 15 people were either unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.
It’s not just Saskatchewan experiencing that trend. Masri said it is playing out across Canada.
Masri said a COVID-19-related death among unvaccinated individuals can often spark change among family members who were also avoiding getting vaccinated.
He said he could think of at least four examples where an unvaccinated patient died after arriving in the ICU.
“I recall very clearly that the family members of those patients, you know, stepped out of the hospital and went to the vaccination place in [Prairieland Park] and received their vaccine,” he said.
Even more than a year and a half into the global pandemic, health professionals are still having to combat misinformation, Masri said.
“It’s really, really unfortunate because, you know, the war of misinformation online has a very long reaching hand sometimes. And unfortunately, those are the folks that are victims to this war of misinformation,” he said.