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December 7, 2020 – Federal and provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Canadian and Québec governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaccinations to begin next week

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that vaccinations will begin next week in Canada if the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech is approved by Health Canada this week, which is possible.

Mr. Trudeau confirmed that Canada will receive 249,000 doses of the vaccine this week and that Health Canada experts must determine its effectiveness and safety.

Once the vaccine is approved, doses will be distributed on a per capita basis to the provinces in 14 super-cold (minus 80 degrees Celsius) storage facilities, which are in the process of being set up in major urban centres across the country.

The prime minister is extremely happy that the vaccination campaign can begin more quickly than planned. “It will be the largest vaccination campaign in Canada’s history,” said Mr. Trudeau. To be effective, two doses of the vaccine must be administered to each person, three weeks apart.

According to the supply contracts, millions of doses of the vaccine will be delivered to Canada at the beginning of 2021.

Québec is fully prepared

Québec’s minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, confirmed that the province is ready to start vaccinating the population as soon as the first doses become available.

Some 4,000 doses will be distributed in Montréal and Québec City as of next week, which will enable the vaccination of 2,000 people.

If the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is approved as expected, some 22,000 to 28,000 people will be vaccinated in Québec between December 21, 2020 and January 4, 2021.

Then, based on the agreements and conditional on the approval of the vaccines, up to 1.3 million doses could be available for Quebecers over the first three months of 2021, which would enable the vaccination of 650,000 people, said Mr. Dubé.

20 distribution centres

The vaccines will be distributed across 20 centres in Québec, that is, one in each of the 16 regions, with three additional centres in Montréal and a second one in Montérégie.

Minister Dubé stated that the logistics and resources are in place to conduct a massive vaccination campaign, as demonstrated by the flu vaccination campaign, which saw the vaccination of 1.1 million people this fall, at a rate of 250,000 people per week.

Moreover, resources have been added by government decree so that more professionals from various health spheres can administer the vaccination, including ambulance technicians and dentists.

Applying the current measures

The provincial government does not plan to bring in additional measures to counter the spread of COVID-19, even though certain mayors from medium alert regions (orange zones) are calling for their regions to be closed to visitors.

Minister Dubé called on the population to apply the measures in place, stating they are sufficient to counter the spread of the virus.

Reallocating services in hospitals

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, confirmed that he has asked hospitals to redirect their activities given the increase in the number of hospitalizations and the anticipated increase in the number of cases over the next few weeks.

The minister stated that this confirms that the health system no longer has the margin of manoeuvre needed to treat people and that medical appointments and surgeries will have to be cancelled. For example, he stated that in the Capitale-Nationale region, this will mean the cancellation of 4,000 medical appointments and the cancellation of 300 surgeries per week.

“Our health network is running at 80% capacity. We may need to reduce that to 50% or even 30%. We have to be able to care for people who have contracted COVID-19,” said the minister.