PRINCE ALBERT -- The CEO of the Mont St. Joseph Home in Prince Albert is speaking out about the facility’s decision to give leftover COVID-19 vaccines to people who aren’t included in the government’s Phase 1 rollout plan.

Wayne Nogier said the home brought in about 260 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for residents and staff, who are eligible under the provincial government’s Phase 1 distribution plan. All of the residents and staff who wanted the vaccine received it on Jan. 11 and 12.

By the evening of the 12th, according to Nogier, they had three doses leftover – he said they had to use those doses up before they expired in a matter of hours. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has a limited shelf life because it must be stored at between -60 C and -80 C before use and can’t be sent back.

Nogier said he then started calling board members over 70 years old, and then the remaining members. Two board members, one who is under the age of 70, received the vaccine, along with a clergy member.

“One of the things that the SHA (Saskatchewan Health Authority) did make clear in our planning with them is that we should be wasting no doses and ensure that if we’re at that point, the critical timing, where these things have been reconstituted and sitting on the shelf for a number of hours, we’ve got now to utilize this without any delay,” he said.

“We determined that we would throw some logic into how we could best utilize it and that’s where we landed.”

The Mont St. Joseph Home is an affiliate organization with the SHA, meaning it’s not an SHA-owned facility, but the health authority does provide direction.

Nogier said “there’s good value” in giving the remaining vaccines to the board members and clergy member because they have a high amount of interaction in the building and in the community.

“There seems to be an impression that there wasn’t any planning that went into our vaccination program. These conversations started early in the fall,” said Nogier.

In an emailed statement, the SHA said “it was determined that all residents and staff in the facility had received their vaccinations and the remaining doses were distributed to prevent wastage.”

The health authority said there have been fewer than five reports of people “queue jumping,” where someone received a vaccine when they weren’t eligible and that it’s examining options to deal with those situations.

However, Nogier said the board members and clergy did not “jump the queue” and did not ask to receive their doses.

“There was no plan to include them, but (we were acting) under the instruction that every single dose of this vaccine is vital.”

The opposition NDP’s health critic, Vicki Mowat, said the government lacks a clear plan in its vaccine distribution.

She referred to a similar situation last month, where Regina’s Qu’Appelle House had extra doses of the vaccine. Staff chose to vaccinate assisted living residents, who weren’t eligible at that time and drew names out of a hat.

“I think that they (the government) need to come up with a clear plan of who should be contacted and what to do in the case of those leftover vaccines, so whether that is reaching out to additional folks who are within phase one, additional health care workers – as long as it’s consistent, I think people just want to know what the right path is,” said Mowat.

“It’s their responsibility to clearly communicate what that plan should look like.”

Nogier said the Mont St. Joseph Home estimated they would use about 260 doses based on the amount of people there who received the flu shot.

According to the provincial government, Phase 1 of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout includes high-risk populations, such as health care workers in high-risk settings, people of “advanced age” and residents and staff in long-term and personal care homes. Phase 2 which includes the general population and is based on age, could be underway as early as April.