COVID-19 vaccination effort ramps up in Quebec, doses available in 21 locations provincewide

Five of the new vaccination centres are in Montreal and several more in the surrounding area, such as the Laurentians and Montérégie.

Priority remains vaccinating long-term care residents and those who care for them

A COVID-19 vaccination centre at the CHSLD Lionel-Émond in Gatineau, Que., is ready to inoculate health workers and senior citizens. (Olivier Plante/Radio-Canada)

Quebec's COVID-19 vaccination campaign expanded today as health-care workers began administering shots at 21 more sites across the province.

Five of the new vaccination centres are in Montreal and several more are in the surrounding area, such as the Laurentians and Montérégie. There will also be two centres in Quebec City, as well as some in more remote areas of the province, like the Gaspé.

Many of the sites are in long-term care centres, where the vaccines will be given primarily to elderly residents and the workers who care for them.

Caregivers over the age of 70 who visit a CHSLD resident at least three times a week were added to this high-priority group, according to Radio-Canada.

Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda said last week that while supplies of the vaccine are limited, the government will focus on inoculating "the ones who are high risk and the ones working in essential services."

In Quebec, the COVID‑19 vaccine will be free for anyone who wants it. Before any vaccine is approved by Health Canada, it must be tested on tens of thousands of people. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

In the Montérégie region, just south of Montreal, only health-care staff working in institutional care homes, not the residents themselves, will be vaccinated this week.

Dr. Julie Loslier, director of Montérégie public health, said this is to reduce the amount of vaccines that could go to waste.

The  Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — the only one currently available in Canada — must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures until just before it is used. Once thawed, there is a limited amount of time when the vaccine is effective.

Loslier said the long-term care homes (CHLSDs) in Montérégie are too small to accommodate large numbers of people.

Instead, the health authority has set up vaccination sites — one in Saint-Hyacinthe and one in Brossard — that can each accommodate 500 health-care workers daily. They will open Wednesday. 

"The residents of (CHSLDs) will be vaccinated as soon as it's possible to transport smaller quantities of the vaccine to these locations," Loslier said. 

WATCH | First resident receives COVID-19 vaccination in Quebec:

First resident receives COVID-19 vaccination at Quebec long-term care home

1 year ago
Duration 0:51
Gisèle Lévesque, 89, became the first Canadian to receive a vaccination against COVID-19 at CHSLD Saint-Antoine in Quebec City. (Video provided by Quebec's Health ministry)

Quebec City vaccinates more than 3,000 people

Last week, workers and residents at the CHSLD Saint-Antoine in Quebec City and the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Côte Saint-Luc were the first people to receive the vaccine in the province. 

In all, 4,831 people in the province have received a first dose of the vaccine. A second dose will be required before immunity takes effect.

The Quebec City health authority said demand for the vaccine was high among their employees. All the available appointment times were booked.

Only a "very marginal number" reported side effects, said Vincent Lamontagne, spokesperson for the health authority. He described the side effects as "minor and typical," such as headaches and muscle pain. 

As Quebec receives more shipments of the vaccine in the coming weeks, residents of private seniors' homes are next in line to be eligible for the shots.

Health Canada estimates that all Canadians will be able to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September 2021.

Canada is on track to receive four million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the first three months of 2021, according to Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand.

Meanwhile, infections in Quebec continue to surge at an alarming rate. The province reported more than 4,000 new cases over the weekend.

A total of 7,736 Quebec residents have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

With files from The Canadian Press and Radio-Canada

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