SASKATOON -- According to Saskatchewan’s health minister, the vast majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases last month are among people who have not been vaccinated.

“I would just ask everyone to do this one simple thing to protect yourself, protect the people around you, and make Saskatchewan safer, so we can reopen and get back to normal,” health minister Paul Merriman said on Tuesday.

During the month of May, a whopping majority of new cases and hospitalizations in Saskatchewan were among those who had not received a first dose of the vaccine or had received a first dose within three weeks.

According to the province 92 per cent of 5,296 new cases in May were among individuals who had not been vaccinated. In the same timeframe 81 per cent of hospitalizations in Saskatchewan were people who were unvaccinated.

Unvaccinated individuals also made up 87 per cent of intensive-care patients, according to the Ministry of Health.

Merriman said this is likely a result of vaccines not being readily available to everyone, but he said now with age eligibility wide open for a first dose, he encourages everyone eligible to roll up their sleeves for a vaccine. He added once the population of fully-vaccinated individuals grows, it will greatly reduce the chances of people contracting the virus.

“And if you do get COVID, chances are that you will have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, If you are fully vaccinate,” Merriman said.

As of Tuesday, the province reported having 68 per cent of all Saskatchewan adults and 65 per cent of all residents aged 12 and older as having at least the first dose of the vaccine.

If Saskatchewan is to achieve the last step in its reopening roadmap, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said the province needs to reach 70 per cent of people with at least a first dose.

“Let’s keep going,” Merriman said. “Please keep the following public health orders that are still in place. If you haven't done so already, go get your first shot and when it's your turn, go get your second shot, but stick it to COVID and have a great summer.”

On Tuesday, Mayor Charlie Clark urged Saskatoon’s younger residents to get a first COVID-19 vaccine. Citing figures from the Saskatchewan Health Authority showing only 39 per cent of 12 to 17 year olds and 48 per cent of 18 to 29 year olds have been vaccinated.

“This isn’t enough to keep our youth safe and protected, or for the wider community,” Clark said in a tweet.