'Two doses are not enough': 1-on-1 with Dr. Mylène Drouin

Montreal’s director of public health said the current restrictions likely won’t be enough to contain the spread of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Montreal public health director expects the province to walk back holiday gathering limits

Dr. Mylène Drouin of Montreal Public Health said current measures and contact tracing will not be enough to contain the Omicron variant. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Montreal's director of public health said the current restrictions in Quebec likely won't be enough to contain the spread of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Speaking to CBC Montreal's Daybreak, Dr. Mylène Drouin said she's seeing the community transmission of Omicron ramping up across the city.

Though Delta is currently still the dominant strain of the virus overall, she said Montreal is "not far" from the situation in Ontario, where Omicron is expected to imminently become the majority of COVID-19 cases.

"We have eight schools and daycare centres that were affected [by Omicron]," she said. "We have community centres, a gym, and a sports team — so it is progressing quite rapidly right now."

"We know our suppressive approach with contact tracing is not enough."

Public health director asks Montrealers to reduce or cancel gatherings

7 months ago
Duration 1:48
Dr. Mylène Drouin says we once again need to flatten a growing COVID-19 curve, and says she recognizes this may be an unwelcome sense of déjà vu for many.

Drouin said she anticipates the provincial government will walk back their recommended holiday gathering limits and make an announcment in the coming days.

Previously, the Quebec government said fully vaccinated individuals would be allowed to gather in groups of up to 20 as of Dec. 23.

When asked if that was a number she would be comfortable with, Drouin said: "I won't be having 20 people at my gathering."

Drouin also spoke about re-imposing restrictions, testing delays and third doses of COVID-19 vaccines. 

Here is some of her Daybreak interview with host Sean Henry, edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: At this point some people may be frustrated with the changes and uncertainty of COVID measures. What would your message be to people who say they're sick of the changing restrictions and are thinking of just not following them this holiday season?

I think when we see an increase in cases, we always have people that do not follow the measures. But we do have a majority of the population who really reacts rapidly to flatten the curve. Of course, we have a fatigue right now, and I do understand this fatigue. We were mostly optimistic with the level of vaccination in Montreal and in Quebec. So I do understand the frustration of going back to more severe measures. 

But I think with the variants, it is a question of numbers. With a variant with that level of transmission, we have, of course, an increase in hospitalization. I think people have to think about people around them that are vulnerable and say, 'I'm doing it for them.' We never know who is going to have a severe form of the illness. 

Q: Our colleagues at Radio Canada have looked into how well and how quickly healthcare institutions are able to process COVID tests. They recently found that the laboratory that services the Hôpital Cité-de-la-Santé in Laval has gone from giving people their results in a matter of 24 hours to taking 4 days. That's since the beginning of this week. Will it take longer to get test results as more people get tested?

We hope not. We're asking people, if you go get a test, go get a test because you have symptoms or because you have been in contact [with someone who tested positive]. Because some people were going to get tested before going to a party. This is not a [proper use of the testing]. So we have to use our capacity for the right [reasons]. 

The other thing we are introducing, in some of the screening centres, is a rapid test ... because some rapid tests, for people with symptoms, are quite good.

So we do those rapid tests and people that are negative can go back home without waiting. And of course, people that are positive with a rapid test, we do a confirmation test in the screening centre. So this is going to help us to increase our capacity.

Q: Would you be screening people? As you just mentioned that there are people who are showing up for a test just because, or before they're going to a party. Will you turn someone away who's coming to test for that reason? 

Presently speaking, we're not turning anyone away. But of course, if our capacity is overwhelmed, we will have to make some priorities. And of course, those persons won't be prioritized.

Q: There was reluctance from some to get their first and their second doses. So how do you pass the message to Montrealers that getting a third dose is important? 

With Omicron, we know that two doses are not enough, and do not have an efficacy that is as good as [it was] for the Delta variant. Even though it is not a perfect vaccine, it is the best way to protect ourselves from the infection and from a severe form [of COVID-19]. So for elders and people with chronic diseases, I think as soon as possible, they should get their third dose.

Q: Bottom line, though, everyone is going to need a third dose at some point? It's just a matter of time, and how long between the second and third, right? 

Of course, yes. 

Based on an interview by Sean Henry for CBC Montreal's Daybreak


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