Coronavirus vaccination is underway in Quebec, but details remain scant on mass inoculation plans

A man walks past the COVID-19 vaccination site at Maimonides long-term care facility Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 in Montreal. Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS

As Quebec continues its COVID-19 inoculation campaign among priority groups such as health-care workers and those who live in long-term care or seniors’ homes, it’s not yet clear when mass vaccination will begin across the province.

Premier François Legault says he’s anxious to release the full details about the plan to vaccinate the public.

“In the next few weeks, we’ll try to start visiting the places where we will have mass vaccination,” he said Thursday. “And I’m 100 per cent confident that (Health Minister) Christian Dubé is making sure that everything is in place.

“So we are just missing the vaccines.”

For weeks, the government has maintained that it is prepared to ramp up vaccinations in Quebec but that it needs more vaccines in order to do it. Legault said Thursday that he plans to speak again with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about upcoming deliveries.

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“I’ll ask him again about how many doses we will receive each week in the next few weeks.”

In the meantime, Quebec has started prepping for mass vaccination by securing sites like the Olympic Stadium. Health authorities said this week that they are looking to recruit several hundred people to deliver the jabs.

Read more: Feds unveil accelerated rollout schedule following fresh coronavirus vaccine deals

Since late December when vaccines became available, the province has focused on providing a first dose to residents in long-term care centres, also known as CHSLDs. Nursing homes bore the brunt of the first wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Quebec.

In the first two months of the campaign, the government has also prioritized inoculating health-care workers on the front lines of the health crisis as well as people who live in remote areas.

Quebec has turned its focus to the elderly who live in private seniors’ residences (RPAs) after shipment delays to the country forced a slow down in the province’s rollout.

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When it comes to vaccinating the elderly who don’t live in group homes, there have been concerns over accessibility. Some senior citizens in Montreal — which has been hard hit by the health crisis — say they are increasingly worried about the process to register for a vaccine.

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After the six priority groups — which include health-care workers and residents of long-term care and retirement homes, as well as Quebecers over 70 years old — the province will then vaccinate these groups in the following order:

  • People 60 to 69 years of age.
  • Adults under 60 years of age who have a chronic disease or health problem that increases the risk of complications of COVID‑19.
  • Adults under 60 years of age who do not have a chronic disease or health problem that increases the risk of complications, but who provide essential services and have contact with users.
  • The rest of the adult population.

Second doses delayed to 90 days in Quebec

Since COVID-19 vaccinations got underway for priority groups, Quebec has not yet started giving people a second shot of the two-dose vaccines.

Vaccine makers, such as Pfizer, have recommended the second shot be given within 21 or 28 days from the first one, depending on the vaccine. Meanwhile, a federal committee has recommended a delay of up to 42 days.

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The Quebec government, however, announced in January that it wants to give the second shot within 90 days. Officials have stood by this decision, saying the priority is to vaccinate as many vulnerable people as possible despite opposition from residents in long-term care homes who want the province to stick to the timeline.

Click to play video: 'More contagious COVID-19 variant could become dominant strain in Montreal by March: INSPQ' More contagious COVID-19 variant could become dominant strain in Montreal by March: INSPQ
More contagious COVID-19 variant could become dominant strain in Montreal by March: INSPQ – Feb 17, 2021

Quebec’s immunization committee said Thursday that the first dose of vaccine given to health-care workers and long-term care residents has been 80 per cent effective at stopping coronavirus infections.

Dr. Nicholas Brousseau, chair of the committee, said the 90-day delay between doses comes from the provincial government. The committee isn’t recommending a specific delay.

Brousseau did note the committee is recommending Quebec give a single dose to all members of six priority groups before anyone receives a second shot.

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How many Quebecers have been vaccinated so far?

Quebec has given out 302,118 doses since its inoculation rollout began in December for priority groups. The government says that represents about 3.1 per cent of the province’s population.

In the past week, the province has given out more than 29,000 jabs. The latest information shows that the daily average is 4,193 people being vaccinated.

Montreal has the highest number of vaccination so far, with 79,980 doses having been administered to date.

Read more: Vaccine ‘80% effective’ among Quebec health workers and long-term care residents

—With files from Global News’ Raquel Fletcher, Amanda Jelowicki, and Abigail Bimman and The Canadian Press

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