MONTREAL -- Health Minister Christian Dube said that starting Tuesday, Quebecers will be able to book a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine within as little as four weeks from their first dose.

The minimum interval between first doses and booster shots as recommended by the vaccine manufacturers is four weeks.

"For many reasons, you might decide for four weeks, which is the recommendation by Pfizer or Moderna," Dube told reporters on Monday. "Starting tomorrow, you can advance your eight weeks to whatever you want … as long as you stay within the interval of four to eight weeks."

He said the government is permitting Quebecers to advance their booster shots because it has nearly two million vaccines in stock.

The government had initially extended the interval between doses to as much as four months because it lacked supply. It then shortened the time between doses to eight weeks when supply increased. Health officials maintain that an eight-week interval provides more protection compared with a shorter one.

Meanwhile, officials reported 49 new COVID-19 cases Monday and one more death attributed to the novel coronavirus. They also reported another 127 cases that had been identified since their last report on Friday. Quebec has 732 active reported infections.

Authorities said that since Friday's report, hospitalizations dropped by eight, to 102, and 27 people were in intensive care, a drop of seven.

The province said about 71,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered on Sunday. About 81.7 per cent of Quebecers 12 and up have received a first dose while 38.7 per cent of that age group are considered fully vaccinated.

Dube said another 115,000 people between the ages of 18 and 29 need to get vaccinated for the government to reach its goal of vaccinating 75 per cent of that cohort. He said the vaccine uptake among younger Quebecers is worrying given the rise of the Delta variant, first detected in India.

He noted that in the United Kingdom, up to 70 per cent of people infected in the latest COVID-19 surge had not been vaccinated. The good news, Dube said, is that while cases are up in that country, hospitalizations and deaths are not.

Should cases rise in the fall, Dube said, the government wouldn't be prepared to order another lockdown.

"We can't shut people away after what we went through for 15 or 16 months," he said.

"We'll have to make choices and some non-essential services will be available to those who've received both doses and that's something that we'll need to explain to people."

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on July 5, 2021.