Quebec widens priority vaccination to more chronic conditions, people with disabilities

As of April 28, everyone who has a physical or intellectual disability will be able to make an appointment. This includes people with speech, language, visual, auditory impairments or autism.

Health Minister Christian Dubé says hundreds of thousands will become eligible this month

The province has opened up its priority vaccination criteria to include hundreds of thousands of newly eligible people with chronic conditions and disabilities. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

On Thursday, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé released a new list of chronic conditions and illnesses which will qualify people for priority vaccination.

Starting at 8 a.m. Friday, people with eligible chronic illnesses, who are less than 60 years old, will be able to sign up for appointments at vaccination centres or pharmacies. They no longer need to be hospitalized, as was originally stipulated.

The new list of conditions is as follows:

  • People on dialysis for kidney failure, on an outpatient basis.
  • Severe immunosuppression.
  • People undergoing chemotherapy or radiation for cancer.
  • Severe cardiac or pulmonary conditions.
  • Obesity (a body mass index of 35 or higher).
  • Diabetes.
  • Sickle cell anemia.
  • Down syndrome.
  • Medical conditions causing problems with the evacuation of respiratory secretions.
  • Dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
  • Spinal cord injury.
  • Neuromuscular disorders.

Province relying on good faith

Unlike people working in essential services who need to show proof of their employment, no proof will be required for this group. Dubé said that the government will be relying on an honour system.

"If there are some individuals that try to cheat the system, that's unavoidable," said Dubé. "We have to trust people."

He said that everyone will have access to a vaccine in "a matter of weeks" and Quebecers understand that they must wait their turn "out of respect for others."

Dubé emphasized that "there are some people who are at greater risk than ourselves" and they will get their chance first.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube announced the new criteria for people with chronic illnesses and conditions to get priority vaccinations. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

People with disabilities can sign up next week

Also, as of April 28, everyone who has a physical or intellectual disability will be able to make an appointment. This includes people with speech, language, visual, auditory impairments or autism.

The appointments can be made either in a vaccination clinic or in a pharmacy. For this group, one caregiver per eligible person can sign up as well.

​"We are very pleased to include caregivers," said Dubé. He explained that the government has heard concerns from people who require assistance to get to their vaccine appointment.

The government specified that these criteria apply to people aged 18 and over.

They can make an appointment by visiting www.Qué

Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda clarified that, for now, pregnant women are not included in this priority group unless they have a chronic condition.

"I'm not saying pregnant women are not at risk at all, they are more at risk than non-pregnant people. But they are not as at risk as all the other ones who we vaccinate first" said Arruda.

According to the Health Ministry, vaccination of the general population will begin at the end of May. 

On April 7, the province released the first list of eligible health conditions, including people who are hospitalized due to a chronic illness such as heart, kidney or lung disease.

The task of vaccinating the first round of people with chronic illnesses fell to hospital staff and pharmacists. Many complained about confusion regarding whether they were eligible, and where and when they could get their shot, especially for people in outpatient care.

At the time, some pharmacists criticized the government for not providing enough clarity in their first announcement.

Pfizer steps in to supply more doses

According to the federal government's forecast schedule, Quebec will be receiving 450,000 Pfizer doses per week starting the week of May 3. The first week of June, that estimate rises to 546,000 doses per week.

For Moderna, Quebec is set to receive 137,000 doses the week of April 26.

Due to the shortage of Moderna vaccines, those who received it as a first dose will likely have another brand for their second dose. 

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During the Thursday news conference, Arruda said that the protocol is to give people the same brand of vaccine as their first dose, but if that's not possible due to supply issues, he believes offering a second dose from a different brand is safe.

Arruda added that more studies are needed to determine if people can combine Moderna and AstraZeneca for their first and second doses.