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Quebec to start COVID-19 vaccinations next week, health minister says

Quebec expects to begin vaccinating residents of long-term care homes against COVID-19 next week, Health Minister Christian Dubé said.

By next Monday, Dubé said, the province should receive four boxes of the Pfizer vaccine, which will allow for 2,000 people at two unspecified long-term care homes to be vaccinated.

Between 22,000 and 28,000 Quebecers will be immunized against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, as the province receives more doses of the vaccine, he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier Monday that up to 249,000 doses of the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be available in Canada this month.

Trudeau said the first shots should arrive next week, if Health Canada gives the product the green light. Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, has said her department could approve the Pfizer product as soon as this week.

Dubé cautioned that all the Quebec-specific targets depend on whether the vaccine gets that approval. 

He also said Quebecers must still make sacrifices until a good proportion of people are vaccinated, because the vaccine doesn’t cure COVID-19.

WATCH | Quebec’s health minister explains vaccine rollout

Residents of long-term care homes and health-care workers will be the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Quebec. 1:53

“Yes, today’s news is good news, but let’s not let it distract us. We have to stay focused.”

Quebec, along with Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, has been experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases of late.

A Quebec Health Ministry spokesperson said the surge in the province can be explained by an increase in community transmission as well as outbreaks in schools, workplaces and in some long-term care homes.

Who gets the vaccination first?

Residents of long-term care homes and health-care workers will be the first to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Quebec.

People living in private seniors’ residences and those in isolated communities, including Indigenous communities, will be next, provincial public health officials revealed during a technical briefing Monday.

Those four groups represent about 547,000 people living in Quebec, which has a population of about 8.5 million.

Health-care workers talk to people waiting to be tested for COVID-19 at a testing clinic in Montreal. Those who work in Quebec’s health-care system will be among the first to be vaccinated against the virus. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The strategy aims to directly protect the most vulnerable members of the population, instead of betting that they will be indirectly protected if those around them are immunized, officials said.

The next groups of people to receive the vaccine will be organized by age group, starting with those 80 and up, then 70 to 79, and 60 to 69, followed by those who are 60 and under and have other risk factors.

20 vaccination sites in Quebec

There will be 20 vaccination sites, developed in conjunction with Pfizer, across Quebec, Dubé said — four in Montreal, two in the Montérégie region, and one each in 14 other regions.

Provinces and territories will receive Pfizer vaccine doses in numbers proportionate to their share of the population.

Trudeau said these doses will be delivered by the company directly to 14 distribution centres across the country that are equipped with the cold storage needed to keep the vaccine at the required –80 C.

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