Government announces new age group for vaccines
The government announced on Tuesday that people aged 45 to 79 would now be eligible to get the Astra-Zeneca-Oxford vaccine.
As of Wednesday, eligible people in this age category will be able to book an appointment through the governments’ Clic-Santé website or by showing up at one of Montreal’s walk-in mass vaccination sites.
This is in addition to many participating pharmacies that are also providing inoculations with a booking.
This decreases the eligibility age, which was previously set at 55-years. “I invite you to take this very efficient and safe vaccine,” stated Premier François Legault.
“The vaccine is the way to regain our freedom,” said Legault on Tuesday, adding that this would “only happen when a majority of Quebecers are vaccinated.”
The government is therefore encouraging all who are eligible to get their vaccines, but also cautioned that people should go quickly due to limited supplies.
According to Health and Social Services Minister Christian Dubé, there are currently 200,000 doses of the Astra-Zeneca-Oxford vaccines in the province and over 800,000 people who are eligible to get them.
“It’s going to be busy on the appointments sites,” said Dubé, adding that “at that the walk-in clinics, there will be lineups. That’s for sure.”
Specific epidemiological situation
Other provinces also lowered their eligibility ages on Monday, with both Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario setting it at 40-years-old for the Astra-Zeneca-Oxford vaccine.
Quebec Public Health Director Horacio Arruda said on Tuesday that the age set for Quebec was decided on due to the current epidemiological situation and specific circumstances in the province.
“If things change, if our epidemiology gets worse, we could lower that age,” Arruda said.
This comes after the federal government said that provinces were free to expand their vaccination programs of the Astra-Zeneca-Oxford vaccines to younger age groups if they wanted to.
Staying the course
The government nonetheless stated that they would continue with the established vaccination schedule and eligibility criteria, not expanding it to all age groups anytime soon.
Legault said that they had decided to vaccinate those most vulnerable first and would not change this strategy.
Questions regarding the governments’ strategy have emerged since many have reported low uptake in vaccination centers with many appointments going unfilled and some vaccine doses going to waste.
Health authorities will soon be adding new groups of people with chronic illnesses to those eligible for vaccination. That is expected for sometime next week when the province is expected to receive a large dose of Pfizer vaccines.
“We have a lot of empathy for those people,” said Dubé.
Although the situation has begun to stabilize, authorities have decided to maintain sanitary measures across the province.
Legault specified that case counts and hospitalizations remained high in Montreal and Laval, but said that they were still within the bounds of hospital capacity. He said that the situation was “surprisingly” stable.
“The situation is still fragile,” cautioned the Premier, justifying the extension of the 8 PM to 5 AM curfew in Montreal and Laval, adding that it was too soon to change measures.
The Legault administration also extended emergency measures in the Quebec City, Chaudière-Appalaches and Outaouais regions, keeping shut all non-essential businesses and keeping schools closed.
Vaccination appointments can be booked both online through the Clic-Santé website or over the phone by calling 1-877-644-4545. Vaccines are free of charge to anyone who wants one.