Maimonides set to gain access to some of Quebec’s first COVID-19 vaccines

Click to play video 'Maimonides Geriatric Residence among first facility set to get vaccine in Montreal' Maimonides Geriatric Residence among first facility set to get vaccine in Montreal
WATCH: Residents at a Côte Saint-Luc seniors home that has been hit hard with COVID-19 will be one of the first in Quebec to get access to vaccines. Staff at the facility are preparing a trial run for next week. Global’s Phil Carpenter reports – Dec 8, 2020

The Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Montreal will be one of the first long-term care residences in Quebec to get access to a novel coronavirus vaccine, with the roll-out set to begin as early as next Monday.

“It’s supposed to start next week, on a small scale actually,” said Francine Dupuis, associate CEO of the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, the regional health authority that oversees the Côte Saint-Luc centre.

“We will be vaccinating the elderly at that CHSLD plus the professionals taking care of them.”

Residents and families were informed by the health authority in a letter. The note, which was obtained by Global News, says a “simulation exercise” will take place this week with plans for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to be administered next week.

“We are very fortunate to have been chosen since vaccines are the most effective way to save lives and protect our most vulnerable loved ones,” wrote Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, president and CEO of the regional health authority.

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“This vaccine will be instrumental in eliminating COVID-19 from our own long-term care centre and, ultimately, from society as a whole.”

READ MORE:Quebec unveils COVID-19 priority vaccination plan

Quebec unveiled its vaccine rollout plans Monday, saying that pending Health Canada approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, vaccination could start as early as next week.

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The government’s plan is to first vaccinate vulnerable Quebecers. Health Minister Christian Dubé explained the first doses will be delivered to two long-term care facilities (CHSLDs) — one in Quebec City and the other in Montreal.

Maimonides has been hard hit by the second wave of the pandemic in recent weeks. In late November, 20 residents were transferred to Montreal hospitals after the virus took hold and the health authority closed a hot zone to contain the spread.

The letter to Maimonides residents says “a substantial team of experts from the government, our CIUSSS and Maimonides is already working on the strategy, logistics and readiness for this significant program.”

READ MORE: Quebec’s COVID-19 surge puts pressure on hospitals as some experts call for temporary lockdown

Rosenberg wrote the vaccine will be administered in two doses, with the second dose coming three weeks after the first.

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In the meantime, other public health measures will remain in place at the long-term care centre to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We would like to emphasize that even after vaccination begins, all of the current precautionary measures — wearing personal protection equipment, physical distancing, testing, hand hygiene and limited access to our facility — will remain in effect,” Rosenberg wrote.

A town hall will also be held this week to answer questions, but the letter noted the vaccine has already been approved in other countries following “many months of a rigorous and detailed scientific review of all of the available data.”

“Many of you are probably wondering whether this COVID-19 vaccine is safe. The answer is an unqualified ‘Yes,'” Rosenberg wrote.

Vaccines will go directly to Maimonides

While Canada’s chief public health officer said Tuesday the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are likely to be given only to people who can physically be at one of the 14 delivery sites identified by provincial governments for the first arrivals of the vaccine, Dupuis said the boxes set aside for Maimonides will go directly to the centre as planned.

Under the plan, the shipment will remain at the centre where both residents and staff will be inoculated once Health Canada approves the vaccine, according to Dupuis.

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“We will be ready,” she said.

It is also possible that Maimonides will receive more doses and, in that case, the health authority will invite staff from other long-term care centres to be vaccinated at the centre.

“It has to stay where it is delivered,” Dupuis said, adding there are protocols that need to be respected with storing the vaccine.

Click to play video 'Growing outbreaks in Montreal-area long-term care facilities' Growing outbreaks in Montreal-area long-term care facilities
Growing outbreaks in Montreal-area long-term care facilities – Dec 1, 2020

With files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier and The Canadian Press