Montreal

Quebec asking more health professionals to administer vaccines to keep up with demand during flu season

The government says it is trying to grow its pool of workers not only for the flu shot this season, but in preparation for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine.

21 professional orders, including dental hygienists, social workers sent request

In preparation for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine and for this year's flu season, Quebec is asking more health professionals if they would be willing to vaccinate people. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

Quebec's Health Ministry is asking health professionals, including psychologists, social workers and dental hygienists, if they are willing to administer vaccines, as the current labour shortage has the province concerned about keeping up with demand.

The government says it is trying to expand its pool of workers not only for the flu shot this season, but in preparation for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine.

A letter from the ministry, sent to 21 professional orders this month, says it is taking this "exceptional" measure due to the pandemic. Currently, only doctors, nurses, pharmacists, auxiliary nurses, respiratory therapists and midwives can administer vaccines.

The letter, obtained by Radio-Canada, asked for a response by Sept. 14 to gauge the level of interest from these health professionals.

It says they would administer vaccines "following training according to the conditions required by the ministry."

"If we are planning a big pandemic vaccination campaign, we need a workforce that is different than what is [used] for the flu shot every year," said Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health at a news conference on Thursday.

He said pharmacists are currently being trained to give vaccines, something which had been planned before the pandemic.

The province's professional orders of psychoeducators, sexologists and social workers told Radio-Canada that they had not finished consulting their members.

They said they were awaiting further clarification from the ministry about what regulations and training they would be required to follow, in order to ensure public safety.

Denis Leclerc, head of Quebec's order of psychoeducators, told Radio-Canada those consultations would continue "when there are some clarifications about how all this will be organized."

Quebec's order of physiotherapists said it "welcomes the request" from the government. It estimates between 500 and 1,000 members could be interested, though it too is awaiting details from the government.

Nurses not informed

Quebec's order of nurses told Radio-Canada that it had not been informed about the province's plan to recruit more health workers to perform vaccines.

The order's president, Luc Mathieu, said nurses would have an important role to play in this program, as they currently perform most of the vaccinations in Quebec.

Acknowledging that the recruitment effort is needed as the health-care network faces a labour shortage, he said it is also essential that proper training is given to those who do not normally perform vaccinations.

"Those in the mental health domain do not necessarily have the required training," he said.

In a statement, the Health Ministry said it is still in discussions with the professional orders, and that the list of workers involved may change as those talks continue.

Based on reporting by Radio-Canada's Marie-Pier Bouchard

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