Montreal

Large-scale vaccination campaign already making progress in northern Quebec

Without any local ICU beds, the region's heath care system is limited. That's why the vaccine is being offered to everyone in the community over the age of 18.

Public health authorities are hoping to vaccinate three quarters of people in Nunavik within three weeks

The vaccine is being distributed in the remote northern region as anyone who gets sick has to be transported to Montreal by plane. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

It's only been a few days since the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Nunavik, but about one in five residents have already received it. 

Public health authorities are hoping to vaccinate three quarters of the 14,000 people who live in the remote northern region, made up of 14 villages, within three weeks.

For people living in Nunavik, including many Inuit, getting the vaccine is crucial because there are no local ICU beds. Anyone who gets sick needs to be transported to a hospital by plane.

That's why the vaccine is being offered to everyone in the community over the age of 18.

In order to encourage people to get the shot, health officials in the region have launched a social media campaign made up of testimonials of people who have gotten it.

The health board has also deployed buses in larger towns like Kuujjuaq to facilitate access for residents.

Kitty Gordon, who works for the Nunavik Regional Board of Health, said at first people were worried about the vaccine, which is why the board is spreading information about it online.

"At the very beginning, a lot of people weren't sure about the vaccine and how new it was," said Gordon. "But now that we know a lot more about it, and the right kind of information is circulating within the population, I think the majority of the population is going to get vaccinated."

Bush pilot Johnny May, 75, was among the first in his town to receive the vaccine.

He joined in the social media campaign, hoping others would follow his example.

"I wanna live forever," he joked in an interview with Radio-Canada. "I'm sure I changed some people's minds that were skeptical."

With files from Franca Mignacca

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