Health-care workers, seniors overcome with 'wave of emotions' as vaccine campaign begins in Laval
Hundreds around Montreal received 1st COVID-19 vaccine dose Thursday
Months of preparation, countless hours of work and meetings — it all hit Isabelle Parent in the shower Thursday morning, as she was getting ready to open the mass vaccination centre she oversees in Laval.
"I got like a wave of emotions and I started crying," Parent told reporters at the centre, adding she was getting goose bumps talking about it.
"It just feels like the beginning of a new day that that will eventually allow us to see our families."
Thursday was the first day members of the general population in Quebec could receive their first of two shots of the vaccines against COVID-19.
The Quebec government opened its online appointment portal quebec.ca/covidvaccine and opened its phone lines (at 1-877-644-4545) yesterday, and some of the regional health boards around Montreal began inoculating earlier than the planned March 1 date.
Quebecers born in 1936 or before are eligible to make appointments for now, as well as those born in 1951 or earlier who are their caregivers. Other segments of the population are expected to soon follow, according to the province's priority list.
Parent says Thursday's appointments were booked within an hour. Three hundred and twenty-two to start with, then 622 each for the two following days. As of Monday, she says the centre will be vaccinating at a cadence of between 800 and 1,000 people per day.
Gisèle Fortaich, 86, was among those to receive the vaccine in Laval Thursday. Fortaich told reporters she wanted to be sure to get the vaccine after a harrowing experience at the hospital with COVID-19 some months ago.
"It wasn't easy to stay at the hospital that long," Fortaich said, without specifying how long it took to recover or whether she knew how she caught the virus. "But I was lucky to survive at my age."
"What I went through, I'm telling myself it's over now and I'm looking to the future."
Watch: the first person to get the vaccine at Laval's vaccination centre
Fortaich joked with the workers as they helped put on her mask and wheeled her to the post-vaccine waiting area.
When someone asked if it hurt, she shook her head.
"Not at all. In fact, it felt good. I was so excited."
Health Minister Christian Dubé held a news conference Thursday to provide an update on the vaccination process.
He acknowledged there were some glitches with the appointment-making process, including some postal codes not working online at first and the 1-800 number not working in some areas. But he said those issues were for the most part fixed.
Dubé also said that with larger-than-expected deliveries slated for the coming weeks, the province should be able to vaccinate 700,000 people in the month of March. That includes providing second doses for those who have been vaccinated between December and February, beginning the week of March 15.
He also urged Quebecers to exercise caution during next week's March break, and to observe public health measures.
"We are one month away from having a large number of people vaccinated ... so let's be prudent," he said.
With files from Radio-Canada and Sean Gordon