Montreal

Maimonides residents threaten legal action to get 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Residents and families at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Côte Saint-Luc have sent a legal notice to the province demanding they receive the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine within 72 hours.

Residents, families at Maimonides send legal notice to Quebec government

Residents at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Côte Saint-Luc have a sent a legal notice to the Quebec government. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Residents and families at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Côte Saint-Luc are demanding they receive the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine within 72 hours.

They've sent a legal notice to the province, accusing the Quebec government of breach of contract, stating that the second shots should have been given out as of last Sunday. 

"Residents and families were told by the government and the CIUSSS that it was essential that all protocols for its delivery be followed to the letter," reads a statement from the Family Advocacy Committee at Maimonides. "The Quebec government has now unilaterally decided to not adhere to the prescription and deliver only one dose without confirmation of when the second dose will be administered."

The data supporting the efficacy of the two-dose vaccine played a key role in obtaining the residents' consent, the statement reads. 

The legal notice follows the province's decision to vaccinate as many people as possible with a first a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, rather than administering the second dose within the prescribed 21-day delay. 

The long-term care home in Côte Saint-Luc was one of the first in the province to administer the vaccine, starting in mid-December.

The legal notice was sent on behalf of 12 Maimonides residents to Premier François Legault and Health Minister Christian Dubé. They've hired lawyer Julius Grey to help them challenge the province's decision.

Joyce Shanks, a spokesperson for the Family Advocacy Committee at Maimonides, is worried a delay in administering the second dose could endanger the lives of residents at the long-term care home. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

'These are lives at stake'

Joyce Shanks, a spokesperson for the Family Advocacy Committee at Maimonides, is concerned that the delay is putting long-term care residents at risk.

Christina Antoniou, a spokesperson for Pfizer, told CBC "there are no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days."

The Health Ministry, on the other hand, says the efficacy of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines 14 days after the first shot is 90 per cent. 

"There is no data to prove that the initial dose of the vaccine is going to be effective for much longer. That's a huge concern," Shanks said. "These are lives at stake."

Shanks also says the government's wish to distribute the vaccine as widely as possible is no excuse for going back on its word. 

"We do realize that the cases in the city and in the province, in the country, around the world are increasing exponentially, and it does make sense to spread the vaccine out further," she said. "However, we had a contract, an agreement."

Lawyer Julius Grey says residents may file an injunction request if the government does not comply with their demand. (CBC)

Government should not 'play with medication,' resident says

Beverly Spanier, a Maimonides resident and one of the first people in the country to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, was hospitalized due to COVID-19 shortly after receiving the first dose. 

Spanier is not among the 12 residents named in the legal notice, but supports the residents' threat to pursue legal action. 

"They should never have given us the first dose if they did not intend to give us the second one," Spanier said. "I do not think you play with medication."

Grey, the human rights lawyer representing the Maimonides residents, says an injunction request could follow if the government does not comply with their demand.

"The whole thing is a question of human rights, but it's also a question of legitimate expectations and the government keeping its word," he said.

With files from Franca Mignacca and Sarah Leavitt

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