Workplace vaccination launched in one of Quebec's hardest-hit regions

The Beauce currently has the highest number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the province. The majority of the region's current active outbreaks are in workplaces.

Workplaces account for majority of active COVID-19 outbreaks in Chaudière-Appalaches region

CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches vaccine director Marie-Ève Tanguay thinks many people in the Beauce region are just too busy working to get vaccinated. (CBC)

Health authorities in the Chaudière-Appalaches have struggled to find takers for the thousands of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines waiting to be used.

Last weekend, the region had hoped to get 5,000 doses administered. But by the end of their blitz campaign Monday morning, they had managed to administer only about a fifth of that.

While CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches vaccine director Marie-Ève Tanguay believes part of the reason behind the hesitancy is because of the rare instances of blood clots reported, she says another factor could be that people just can't find the time in their workdays to get vaccinated. 

That's why the regional health authority will be launching mobile vaccination sites at some workplaces from Wednesday to Friday this week. It is not yet known how many workplaces have agreed to participate, but Tanguay hopes it will help get vaccine numbers up. 

"Going to the people during their work hours while they work increases the accessibility for sure," said Tanguay. 

Tanguay hopes the mobile sites will also serve another purpose: that workers who have been hesitating will take the plunge when they see their colleagues getting the shot.

The mobile clinics will be administering the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which means only those who are in the eligible age range can get vaccinated. As of Wednesday, that means anyone aged 45 and over.

Poultry producer Exceldor and cake factory Vachon were among the first businesses to offer the shots to employees Wednesday.

"They gave us time to go get our shot, it didn't take long at all," said Exceldor employee Benoit Roy, 62, who got his vaccine Wednesday.

The health authority says it will be sending out a dozen teams to about 60 workplaces this week.

According to the latest government data, out of the 126 active outbreaks in Chaudière-Appalaches, 85 are in workplaces.

Lowering of vaccine age range comes as relief 

Tanguay also has hope the region will be able to administer all remaining doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine now that the province has given younger Quebecers the green light.

"We had to turn away some people who were less than 55 who would've liked to be vaccinated," said Tanguay. "This will definitely help us use the remaining doses more quickly." 

Calls to get people vaccinated have become especially urgent recently, as the hospitalization rate continues to rise in the area. As of Tuesday, there were 39 people in the region's hospitals, 13 of whom were in intensive care. 

And with 600 active cases per 100,000 residents, the Beauce remains the region with the highest number of cases per capita in the entire province. 

On Tuesday, Premier François Legault said that while the number of cases seems to be stabilizing compared to previous weeks, the hospitalization rate is reaching a breaking point in the region.

This week, five patients had to be transferred from the Hôpital de Saint-Georges to the Hôpital Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis due to lack of space, he said. 

The province extended lockdown measures for Quebec City, the Chaudière-Appalaches and the Outaouais regions until at least May 3 because of strain on hospitals. 

Beauce mayors call for solidarity 

Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce Mayor Pierre Gilbert says the Beauce region has a long tradition of residents helping each other out in times of crisis. (Radio-Canada )

Mayors in the Beauce have also taken to social media in recent days, calling for residents to get vaccinated and to follow public health guidelines more closely. 

Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce Mayor Pierre Gilbert is reminding residents of their roots. He says people in the Beauce have a long history of mutual aid and solidarity and that they need to keep that in mind when it comes to COVID-19. 

"We have to stick together and we have to get past this challenge," Gilbert wrote. He suggested that locals think of it as a duty to the community "every time that we make a small extra effort to respect sanitary measures."

Beauceville Mayor François Veilleux had a similar message for residents this week. 

"We can't let our guards down," he wrote on Facebook. "I want to remind people too that if they want to be vaccinated, they should stay well-informed and take advantage of the available spots." 

With files from Julia Page and Radio-Canada

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