SASKATOON -- Amid climbing numbers of variant cases and the resulting calls for the province to shift its COVID-19 vaccine strategy to focus on essential workers, over a dozen Saskatoon police officers were vaccinated with extra doses from local clinics.

"We have had 17 frontline officers vaccinated with end of day surplus doses thanks to STC (Saskatoon Tribal Council) and Lighthouse clinics," Saskatoon Police Service Chief Troy Cooper tweeted on Thursday.

"Only 298 more doses would vaccinate the rest of our front line. If the plan changes it won’t take long to get that done," Cooper said.

There were 189 variant cases confirmed in the Saskatoon area as of April 7, according to the province's COVID-19 update on Thursday. That's up from 18 as of March 29.

The B.1.1.7 variant accounts for nearly all of the cases in Saskatchewan where the variant strain has been positively identified.

Data suggests the variant spreads quicker, can lead to more severe outcomes and hit younger patients harder than the original novel coronavirus strain.

Cooper has previously called for frontline officers to be given priority under the province's vaccine plan.

Earlier this week the Saskatchewan Medical Association and the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses also called on the province to adjust its vaccine plan to focus on essential workers instead of relying on largely age-based criteria.

In another tweet, sent April 1, Cooper said he was thinking about frontline workers and police "working unvaccinated in hot-spot areas" like Regina and Moose Jaw where variant case numbers have been surging.

Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) also sent a tweet offering thanks for the doses.

"Thanks to the @TheLighthouseSK and @StoonTribalCncl for thinking of us when they have a surplus," SPS tweeted.

In its tweet, the police service pointed to the climbing rates of COVID-19 variant cases in the city.

"Younger people (which make up large portion of patrol) are more at risk," the SPS tweet said.

STC Tribal Chief Mark Arcand said the clinic had about a dozen vaccine doses and didn’t want them to go to waste.

“I feel the police are frontline workers. Some other organizations might not feel that, but I did what I thought was best and I think I did it for the right reasons. We didn't waste any vaccines which is a good thing," Arcand said.

“I just hope more frontline workers can be prioritized to get the vaccine, because they're in the front lines,” he said. “They're going into people's homes, they're actually saving people's lives, and they should be a priority.”

The clinic, set to run to July 31, aims to vaccinate 800 to 1,000 people a week, Arcand said.

With funding from Indigenous Services Canada, the STC made the decision a month ago to set up the vaccination clinic in conjunction with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Arcand said the clinc been accurate in terms of vaccine numbers — and he hopes it stays that way — but the clinic has a standby list of people to call when there is a surplus.

On March 31 and April 1, the Lighthouse in Saskatoon administered 440 vaccinations to people.

Among them were 40 people from different organizations the city, including mental health and addictions workers, the fire department, police and Prairie Harm Reduction staff.

Fundraising and communications manager Anna Pacik said the shelter wanted to support people who are regularly in and around the Lighthouse area and believes it’s a good model for other organizations.

“It was common sense. There are protocols we have to follow, but we have our nurse practitioner lead clinic here at the Lighthouse, and they really took charge and were instrumental in seeing that through and having it run so smoothly.”