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Quebec shortening wait times for 2nd COVID-19 vaccine doses to 8 weeks

MONTREAL — Quebec is shortening wait times for second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines from 16 to eight weeks and allowing certain age groups to begin rescheduling their next shot beginning next week. 

“It is important that the offer to advance the second dose of vaccine be made according to the prioritization schedule established by age group, as older people are at greater risk of developing complications from COVID-19,” the ministry said in a news release Thursday. 

For people who are immunocompromised or on dialysis, the recommended interval in between doses is four weeks. 

The province also rolled out its timeline for when people can start rebooking second doses on the Clic Sante website. Those 80 and older can begin rescheduling their second dose on June 7. Younger populations will be able to book their second shots on specific dates on a gradual basis. 

Here is the timeline for re-scheduling second doses:

Officials said those who wish to move their second shot sooner on the Clic Sante website will be able to cancel the original appointment for the second dose at the same time. 

With the revamped vaccination campaign, approximately 3 million second doses could be rescheduled, Quebec health minister Christian Dube said Thursday at a news conference. 

Dube announced more details on the province’s vaccination campaign alongside vaccination campaign director Daniel Paré and Quebec’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda.

As of Thursday, the province has reached its target of administering a first dose of the vaccine to 75 per cent of adults, which is three weeks ahead of schedule.

“I think we’re feeling great. I said that if I had the chance, I probably would have brought some balloons with me just to show the state of mind that we have today,” Dube said.

“I think that the job that has been done by the network, by the employees, by the pharmacist by the businesses, all the people that have been working weekends for vaccination, we tend to forget that we vaccinated between 8o’clock and sometimes 8, 9, 10 o’clock at night, on weekends, and we have vaccinated, more than 5 million doses and in the last four months.

This is huge. So we’re happy.”

Arruda addressed concerns about switching types of vaccines for the second dose Thursday, telling reporters that it’s recommended to stick to the same vaccine as the first dose. The choice is up to individuals, but he warned that side effects could be worse if they swtich.

“If you don’t want to have AstraZeneca as the second because you are afraid, or you would like to have Pfizer, you can have it,” he said. 

“But what we’re going to tell you is that it’s possible that your reaction to the vaccine is going to be with more symptoms, like in the first week after getting the second shot. You could have fever, headaches, like fever, like if you have a flu problem.”

Taking into account all adults as well as the 12-17 youth population, the vaccination rate is 62 per cent. 

LOW VACCINATION RATE IN MONTREAL

In total, Quebec has administered a 5,808,464 first and second doses since the start of the vaccination campaign.

However, new data from the Institut national de santé publique (INSPQ) shows that Montreal and Laval, two of the cities in Quebec most affected by COVID-19 infections, have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the province.

Public health states the rate is higher in more affluent neighbourhoods than in communities with lower household incomes. In Montreal North, one of the most disadvantaged areas, the vaccination rate is only 43.8 per cent.

Thursday morning, Quebec Premier François Legault insisted a targeted campaign in struggling communities will help boost vaccination rates.

“I hope we get to the 75 per cent target and I understand that we have to do some education in some areas,” he said. “Some people are scared, with no reason, about the vaccine. So, we have to explain to them why they need to be vaccinated and we will do so.”

Legault stated the government plans to distribute more information in as many languages as possible, adding he wants to find an incentive to help those hesitant to get inoculated.

MORE DETAILS COMING ON QR CODES

The province has yet to explain how the new digital proof of vaccinations will be used in the province as more continue to be rolled out in the form of QR codes sent to residents’ emails.

Dube said next week the Paré will announce details of the program, noting that so far more than 4.5 million codes have already been issued to Quebecers.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the province has steadied recently, with daily infections below 300 in Quebec for four days in a row.

— with files from The Canadian Press and CTV Montreal’s Amy Luft

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