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'We're not being as proactive': Most Quebecers not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines

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On this Thanksgiving long weekend, many Quebecers are gathering with family after two years of on-and-off pandemic restrictions.

But health experts are concerned about low vaccination rates in the province. 

According to the latest data, only 22 per cent of Quebecers are up to date with their vaccines, meaning they've gotten a shot within the last five months.

That number falls to just seven per cent for those between 18 and 39. Meanwhile, 17 per cent of Quebecers ages 40 to 59 are up to date. For those ages 60 to 90, that number is 39 per cent, and for Quebecers older than 80, it's 52 per cent.

According to epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos, some Quebecers underestimate the importance of vigilance during this later stage of the pandemic.

"The problem with the 'I'm over COVID' argument is that COVID isn't over you," Labos told CTV News. "Most people who get COVID are going to recover, but a small proportion won't. They will be left with long-term complications."

Complications, he says, that weigh on the health network.

"If COVID only affected a thousand people, the fact that one of them is going to get severely sick, that's something the healthcare system can cope with. But when you have a million people getting it and a thousand with long-term symptoms, that puts a severe burden on the healthcare system."

Health Canada is appealing to those who haven't gotten their booster shots, adding that the latest bivalent vaccines are more effective against new variants.

"If we make better use of the vaccines in Canada, we will be able to significantly reduce the hospitalization rate that will observe towards the end of the fall and early 2023," said federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos at a press conference.

Labos noted that new variants could be on the horizon, meaning even those who consider themselves adequately protected from the virus could be at risk if they don't remain up to date.

"We're not being as proactive as we were before," he said. "We're sort of waiting to see how things evolve."  

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