MONTREAL -- Quebec health authorities had no way to know last winter when they placed their usual order for the flu vaccine the province would also be in the grips of a pandemic this season.

It only became clear months later, the health ministry told CTV News, that more people intended to get a flu shot this season than the year before. There was also an increase in the number of people in high-risk groups requiring coverage.

That explains why sometime in June 2020 the province decided to boost its initial order of 1.6 million doses to 2 million doses through the federal government procurement channels that all provinces use.

Quebec’s influenza vaccine campaign officially begins Nov. 1.


Two million doses will be available free to those in the public program’s high-risk groups.

  • two-thirds are distributed among hospitals, CIUSSS vaccine clinics and CHSLDs and some doctors' offices and clinics
  • one-third are delivered by pharmacy distributors to the approximately 85 per cent of Quebec pharmacies participating in the public program
  • pharmacists ordered 575,000 doses for the targeted high-risk groups in the spring from distributors
  • pharmacy distributors built in a buffer and asked the government to transfer 650,000 doses to them instead


Quebec pharmacies purchased 100,000 doses to respond to the needs of the private market, namely people who are aren’t eligible for the free government flu shot and will pay to get one.

“Unfortunately, that number is half what it was in the past. We used to have access to 200,000 doses,” but Hugues Mousseau, director-general of the Quebec Association of Pharmacy Distributors explained, “this year, manufacturers aren’t able to respond to the demand.”

As for the public campaign, Mousseau told CTV that because pharmacy appointments are filling up quickly, pharmacists are contacting him to see if they can obtain additional vaccines. 

“We were able to accommodate them due to the 75,000 margin of doses that we had accounted for,” Mousseau said. Now that they need even more stock, the association has contacted public health authorities with their request.

“They’ve committed to getting back to us by mid-November. If we have access to any additional doses we’ll be very quick to channel them to the pharmacies so they can book more appointments,” Mousseau said.

Pharmacies are allowed to transfer doses among themselves to meet demand and ensure no doses go to waste.