Quebecers with health conditions to learn their COVID-19 vaccine priority levels 'shortly'
MONTREAL -- After setting up an expert roundtable, Quebec is nearly ready to announce which health problems it will consider most urgent when it comes to vaccine priority, a question that's put the province under increasing pressure.
"This is a clinical table with all sorts of specialists and they'll come to a consensus that will allow us to put in place that list," said Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda on Tuesday.
The need for clear rules also seems imminent: the province hit the one-million mark Tuesday in its vaccination campaign. It hit another milestone earlier this week when it opened up appointments in Montreal to those 60-years-old and over.
Reaching the age-60 mark means the province will soon enter into the more complicated and controversial territory of deciding how to prioritize people with various underlying medical conditions.
Many, including cancer patients and people with Down syndrome, have doctors or family who have been pleading with the province to allow them vaccines.
Once people over 60 have been vaccinated, the order is split into three groups, all under 60, but not defined by age, according to the written priority sequence.
First, adults under 60 will be eligible if they have a chronic disease or health problem that increases the risk of COVID complications.
After that comes adults under 60 without this kind of health problem, but who provide essential services and have contact with the public. This can include teachers, cashiers and many other groups defined largely by profession.
The last group, the tenth out of 10 priority groups, is the rest of the adult population under 60.
There are many distinctions that can and will be made within those three tiers, however. The province convened a group of medical experts to decide on the sequence within the group with underlying conditions, said Arruda.
"It's not all kinds of cancer," for example, he said. "It's not if you have chemotherapy and have been cooperating. Those people don't have the same risk" as some other cancer patients.
The province asked "clinicians to tell us which criteria we're going to use," he said.
The group met on Monday and the province should be releasing its finalized list "shortly," Arruda said.
He said the logic it used was simply which groups would be most at risk of serious complications from the virus.
"We want to prevent hospitalizations and people dying from the disease," he said.
He also said that depending on the vaccine supply, the groups coming up for eligibility may end up being vaccinated very close together or even overlapping.
"Seven, eight, nine, 10, perhaps they'll be quite parallel, those groups," he said.
The province has previously said they're also looking at tweaking priority group nine, the one defined largely by job, to clarify who comes first within that tier.
On Monday, Premier François Legault also reminded media that the province needs to continue vaccinating the elderly in regions outside of Montreal in order to catch up to the city, where mass vaccination started earlier.
"Today we announced that we'll vaccinate [people] 60 years or more in Montreal," he said in a different press conference. "But we have to do that in all regions."
The health department hasn't yet responded to a question about whether this could possibly mean a delay in moving onto subsequent groups in Montreal.