Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé unveiled the province’s COVID-19 vaccination plan on Monday, saying the arrival of the vaccine is imminent.
“Quebec is ready to start vaccinating as soon as we get our first doses,” Dubé said at a press conference in Montreal. “That’s the good news of the day.”
Pending Health Canada approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, vaccination could start as early as next Monday, Dec. 14.
Dubé said Quebec is set to receive 4,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, next week which is enough to vaccinate 2,000 people.
“It takes two doses per person for full immunity,” he explained.
Those first doses will be delivered to two long-term care facilities (CHSLDs) — one in Quebec City and the other in Montreal.
The province has identified 20 vaccination sites across the province, including four in Montreal and two in the Montérégie and one in each of the province’s remaining administrative regions.
On deciding who to vaccinate first, the government looked at various criteria including age, in terms of those more at risk of complications and death from COVID-19, comorbidities or underlying health conditions, professions where people are in contact with those who are potentially sick and finally people in a position to transmit the illness to others.
“We have to protect the most vulnerable,” Dubé said.
Specifically, the first group to be vaccinated will be seniors living in long-term care, followed by health-care staff and then private seniors’ residences.
Next in line will be seniors over the age of 80, then those between 70 and 79, then 60 to 69 followed by those who are 60 or less with chronic illnesses and then essential workers.
Young people and pregnant women will be the last groups to be vaccinated because there is still research to be done for those groups.
While the goal is to respect the priorities there is a practical nature to the procedure, too. During a technical briefing Monday afternoon, health officials explained sometimes there will be parallel vaccinations.
For example, if you go into a seniors residence, you might do the staff, too.
Dubé said that between Dec. 21 and Jan. 4, the government expects that between 22,000 and 28,000 could be vaccinated.
In the first three months of 2021, the province is expecting another 1.3 million doses from two manufacturers, including Pfizer and Moderna. That means around 650, 000 people could be vaccinated at a rate of 100,000 people a week.
Dubé reassured Quebecers the government has the capacity in terms of expertise, logistics and human resources to carry out a massive vaccination campaign.
Dubé pointed to the current influenza vaccination effort as an example of Quebec’s know-how.
“In just over a month….we’ve already vaccinated over 1.1 million against the flu,” he said. “That’s around 250,000 a week.”
Despite the good news, Dubé warned against developing a false sense of security.
“We may have a vaccine on the way, but the vaccine does not cure COVID, it does not cure those who are ill,” he said. “With all the cases we have had, especially in the last days, we’re going to have a lot of people in hospital and a lot of deaths.”
Dubé likened the pandemic to a marathon.
“We can see the finish line, but the last kilometres are always the hardest,” he said, urging Quebecers to continue being careful to limit the spread of the virus.
According to health officials, for the vaccine to be effective, 60 to 70 per cent of the population needs to be immunized. Quebec’s target is 75 per cent.
Dubé, however, declined to say whether the province would ultimately make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory in a bid to reach its target.
— With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez and Mike Armstrong
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