A different sort of pre-game: Saskatchewan NDP leader wants ‘tailgate vaccination clinics’ at Rider games

Photo courtesy: Sask NDP

The province of Saskatchewan is ramping up for the return of Roughrider football on August 6, but if Ryan Meili had it his way ice cold pre-game beers would be replaced with some temperature-regulated doses of Moderna and Pfizer.

The head of the Saskatchewan NDP and leader of the official opposition released an official statement, lambasting premier Scott Moe for his handling of the pandemic in recent weeks. He’s calling for a much stronger vaccine push, including a targeted attempt to reach Rider fans ahead of the team’s home opener.

“Scott Moe has decided to pat himself on the back for a job half-done. It’s time to get serious about getting past the Last Mile and reaching true herd immunity in our province,” said Meili.

“The Delta variant is more aggressive and resistant and has become the dominant strain in much of the world. It is more important than ever that the vaccine roll-out be targeted, aggressive and effective.”

With cases rising in many jurisdictions across the globe due to variants, experts predict a fourth wave could hit Saskatchewan as we head towards September, driven by the unvaccinated. The province lags behind the national average with just 62.5 percent of people immunized with their first dose.

With the CFL set to kick off in a week, the potential of another massive virus outbreak weighs heavy. While the province of Manitoba will allow only fully-vaccinated fans at Bombers games this season, their neighbours in Saskatchewan have placed no such restrictions.

Premier Moe raised concerns in June that implementing so-called “vaccine passports” violated health privacy laws. With thousands of fans about to flood Mosaic Stadium, that is a cause for concern according to the NDP.

“We believe that Rider games should be COVID-free, and it’s clear that the [Saskatchewan Health Authority] agrees with us. Not only that, it is clear that fans agree with us, with the quantity of tickets still available for the first Rider game in Regina since 2019,” Meili said, referencing the fact that the game has not yet sold out and that a SHA draw for 3,000 tickets is restricted only to “fully-vaccinated SHA staff and healthcare workers.”

“Unfortunately, the premier doesn’t agree. In the absence of that certainty for Rider fans, the government must at least ensure that everyone who attends a Rider game has the opportunity to be vaccinated with the introduction of “tailgate vaccination clinics” at Mosaic Stadium.”

The strategy would see vaccines available to fans prior to entry to the stadium, though they would not be a requirement for entry. It also wouldn’t mitigate the risk of such a large gathering, as vaccines are not fully effective until two weeks after immunization, but could help boost the province’s long-term herd immunity if enacted.

On Monday, the ruling Sask Party announced it would be discontinuing its drive-thru vaccine clinics and booked appointments for immunization by August 8, shifting instead to a model based around planned summer events, post-secondary campuses, grocery stores, pow wows, provincial parks, recreation areas and community centres.

That plan is in line with what their political opponents are proposing, but the government has yet to comment. For now, sore throats are the only thing that screaming Riders fans can bank on for August 6 and sore arms will have to wait.