On day one of mass vaccination, 100,000 Quebecers make appointments
Kinks in the new mass vaccination system are being ironed out, said Quebec's health minister on Thursday, later announcing that more than 100,000 people signed up on the first day of registrations.
Phone lines opened at 8 a.m. to allow Quebec’s general population to be able, for the first time, to get their COVID-19 vaccinations in the coming days.
The province is now accepting reservations only for people 85 years old and over. Anyone born in 1936 or earlier can register online or by phone.
Those who wish to register must have their health insurance card in hand to be able to reserve their place and receive the vaccination during the next few days.
To register, visit the Quebec COVID-19 vaccination campaign website or call 1-877-644-4545.
A person accompanying someone older than 85 can also be vaccinated, if they are at least 70 years of age and spend at least three days a week with that person.
At a Thursday press conference, Health Minister Christian Dubé said he had heard reports of people having problems making appointments. He said the province is working to resolve those issues, and that the process should be much smoother as of Thursday evening.
For the time being, he asked that people opt to register online, with phone lines getting backed up in the first hours of opening.
By the afternoon, Dube reported that 72,000 appointments had been made and said that "within four hours, the waiting time was below 20 minutes on our phone lines."
He says phone providers and the province are working to reduce wait times.
By the evening, around the time the phone lines closed at 6 p.m., he wrote on Twitter that 100,000 people had made an appointment.
Last Tuesday, the Quebec said it expected to administer first doses to around 200,000 people, adding that it would take about two weeks.
As for the second dose, the Quebec government said it expected to vaccinate around 200,000 people aged 85 and over, adding health officials expected that to take about two weeks.
The campaign will then extend to the age groups on a decreasing basis: 80 years and over, then 70 years and over, followed by 60 years and over and, finally, the general population.
Once the first dose has been administered, Quebecers will be offered a date to receive their second dose, probably within the recommended 90-day period.
Dubé said the province will begin to administer second doses no later that March 15.
So far, the province has given a first dose to all residents of CHSLDs, half of seniors' residences and 200,000 workers in the health network.
Dubé said the province is expecting to receive 700,000 doses of vaccines within the next four weeks.
Of those, 400,000 will come from Pfizer, and the other 300,000 from Moderna.
Dubé said he was optimistic that deliveries of vaccines will continue on-schedule in the coming weeks and beyond, after doses from Pfizer were delayed following factory renovations.
“We're coming out of a very dry vaccination period, I hope,” he said.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS FOR DECONFINEMENT?
At the Thursday press conference, Health Director Dr Horacio Arruda said that it will still take some time to know when the province will be able to relax pandemic measures, like social distancing.
Though hopes for a normal summer seem to be off the table, Arruda said it’s possible summer 2021 will be more open than the winter months.
“At the beginning of the summer we won't have finished our whole vaccination campaign,” he said. “We might see some distancing measures or mask wearing measures being lifted.”
“[As for] distancing, avoiding gatherings and things like that, we will still have the same dynamics.”
One idea that’s being floated around is a COVID-19 vaccination passport, which people could receive after getting vaccinated.
Dubé said it’s still to early to say, but that it’s something that the province has considered.
“It's very likely for me to that eventually we'll get a short-term vaccine passport,” he said. “That’s what we’ve envisioned.”
-- With files from the Canadian Press