Aiming to fend off variant, public health organizes vaccination blitz for parents in Montreal's west end

A vaccination campaign is being launched for the parents of school- and daycare-aged children in Côte Saint-Luc and the Snowdon area of Montreal, in an effort to slow the transmission of a more contagious coronavirus variant.

Teachers not included in campaign that aims to curb transmission of variant identified in U.K.

Public health will give priority vaccination to parents of school children, as well as teachers and other school staff, in the Côte Saint-Luc and Snowdon areas in the city's west end, in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 variants in those areas. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

A vaccination campaign is being launched for the parents of school- and daycare-aged children in Côte Saint-Luc and the Snowdon area of Montreal.

Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal's public health director, said the two areas account for 26 per cent of cases of the more  the more contagious B.1.1.7 mutation originally identified in the United Kingdom.

Drouin said the variant has been spreading quickly in the community in the past several weeks and this campaign, which begins next Monday, is an attempt to stop it from making its way into other parts of the city.

"We have learned with the first wave and second wave that sometimes we have hot spots, and it goes later into the east and north of Montreal," Drouin told reporters.

Authorities say 10,000 to 15,000 doses of vaccine will be made available in the campaign, which will allow some people under age 65 to get a vaccine earlier than in other parts of the city.

Parents with a child in a school or daycare in areas starting with the following postal codes will be eligible: H4W, H3W and H3S.

Parents with children at Bialik High School are among those eligible to get a vaccine as part of a new pilot project from Montreal Public Health. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Drouin said the goal of the pilot project is to stop transmission in households. Teachers and daycare workers at those schools are, for now, not part of the campaign, though Drouin said that may change in the coming weeks.

Mordechai Antal, the president of the Federation of Teachers of Jewish Schools, said the decision not to include teachers and staff isn't sitting well with members.

"All of them are just sort of flabbergasted that they've been on the, as it was described, on the front lines, in a sense, in the classroom trying to keep their classes open," Antal said.

"Why are the teachers, who are in the classroom on a daily basis, exposed to those same kids, not being vaccinated along with the parents?"

The English Montreal School Board has formally asked Drouin to have all staff vaccinated at four schools chosen to participate in the pilot project.

Parents at Coronation Elementary School and Project Mile End Alternative High School in Côte des Neiges, John Grant High School in Côte Saint-Luc and Sir Mortimer B. Davis, based at the Jewish General Hospital, will be vaccinated, the EMSB said Thursday.

The teachers appear to have an ally in Education Minister Jean-François Roberge, who has asked public health to include teachers in the pilot project.

Roberge took to Twitter to say he felt teachers should be vaccinated as well.

Roxane Borgès Da Silva, a public health professor at Université de Montréal, said the decision to target parents makes sense, given the limited resources available.

"Choices have to be made, and choices are not always the choice we would like to have," she said. 

"Public health wants to protect all Montrealers  and prevent variant from spreading to other parts of Montreal."

With files from Sarah Leavitt and Kristy Rich


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