Quebec has only given out half its vaccine doses -- but says it's on purpose
MONTREAL -- Since the first Pfizer doses landed in Canada, a little over 22,000 Quebecers have gotten a shot.
For many, that’s renewing hope. But for many others, the numbers are also bringing frustration—especially when they look at how fast vaccination is going elsewhere.
The U.S., for example, is vaccinating four times as many people per capita.
"I'm quite surprised that the rollout has been so slow,” said biostatician Ryan Imgrund.
In Canada, only one fifth of the doses received have been given out.
“Why didn't we have hospitals set up for this? Why didn’t we have clinics set up for this?” asked Imgrund.
“None of this is a surprise for us. We knew what we were in store for. We've had plenty of time to actually plan for this too.”
And with millions left to vaccinate, those early worries create bigger concerns, he said.
“The fact that we haven't planned for it makes me worried that when we get a lot more vaccines—are we going to be able to roll out 100,000 doses every single day? Because that's what we need in order to vaccinate every single person in our country by the end of December 2021.”
The Quebec government says it’s ahead of other provinces in administering the shots it’s been delivered. It says that by the end of this week, 27,000 people will be vaccinated.
That’s exactly half of the doses received so far, the province says, and the rest has been held to make sure the first people vaccinated can receive their second shots, since the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, three weeks apart.
Ontario was heavily criticized this week after it came to light that the province took a multi-day “break” from vaccinating, for the most part, over Christmas. Now Ontario plans to give out all its doses as soon as they arrive, without holding any back.
But Quebec’s health minister, Christian Dubé, insists it’s Pfizer that’s asking for half the doses to be held in reserve.
"We have the manufacturer's instructions to keep half of the vaccine we receive to administer the second dose,” he said Tuesday. “This is what we're doing now.”
Pfizer told CTV, however, that that’s only a recommendation. Quebec now says that like other provinces, it will consider changing its approach, since 30,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine expected to arrive every week in the new year.
Some other experts say they always expected vaccinations to really pick up after the holidays.
“The pre-Christmas vaccination numbers were always going to be small,” said Dr. Christopher Labos, an infectious diseases expert.
“It was just sort of the beginning. The real work was always going to happen in January, after the holidays, anyway.”