MONTREAL -- Teachers and daycare staff in two Montreal neighbourhoods will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine early, health officials have confirmed.

The move comes a day after Montreal public health officials said they would begin a vaccination campaign for parents of children in schools and daycares in small, specific parts of the Cote-des-Neiges neighbourhood and in the City of Cote-St-Luc.

"To quickly limit the spread of the British variant of the virus, which is much more contagious, we have a very small window of opportunity," said Montreal Health Director Dr. Mylène Drouin in a Friday press release. 

"We have decided to rapidly deploy a pilot project in the two areas where the variants are spreading rapidly, in an attempt to extinguish the fire," she said, adding that the two areas collectively represent 26 per cent of variant cases in the city.

"By limiting their spread, everyone in Montreal will be better protected."


Initially, only parents were set to have access to the vaccine, leading some teachers to say they felt angry and left out.

Public health officials have since expanded the plan to allow teachers and daycare staff to be included.

"The vaccine will be available to parents in neighbourhood schools or daycares AND to school staff in direct contact with children. All will be notified by their school to make an appointment,"  Drouin tweeted Friday afternoon. "By vaccinating the targeted areas of Côte-Saint-Luc and Côte-des-Neiges, where the variants are predominant, all of Montreal will benefit from better protection against the third wave."

The two-week pilot project begins on Monday, March 22, with 10,000 to 15,000 doses available for vaccination. Parents and members of staff who are involved in this pilot project will be contacted by their respective schools or daycare centres and will be told how to make an appointment for vaccination.


Meantime, Montreal public health authorities and leaders in that neighbourhood are working to inform citizens in the region cautioning them about an alarming spike in COVID-19 variants.Cote St-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein confirmed that residents may receive robocalls encouraging them to get vaccinated.

“My main message in my robocall will be for all those eligible for the pilot project to get vaccinated as a way to stop the spread of the variant,” said Brownstein.

Montreal public health said it is not targeting any cultural or religious community by focusing on the area of Montreal with a large Jewish population, but rather just the region where variants are spreading.

It is the same area where a pilot project was launched to vaccinate parents of schoolchildren to curb variant spread.

Montreal public health reached out to community leaders in the area to help spread the word and encourage residents to follow advice.

"It was an issue they undertook because they looked at the map, and they saw where the numbers, you know, are troubling," said Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation Rabbi Reuben Poupko, who was one of those contacted by public health. "We're in a race now between the variants and the vaccine, and everyone wants to win that race."

Residents in Cote-des-Neiges, Snowdon and Cote-St-Luc are reminded to adhere strictly to health measures.

"It's certainly part of the Jewish community, but it's much broader than that," said Poupko.

There are currently 327 confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants on the Island of Montreal.