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January 14, 2021 – Provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

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

90 days before the second dose

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, announced that people vaccinated between now and March will receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine within 90 days instead of the 42-day maximum prescribed by the manufacturers.

Dr. Richard Massé, Strategic Medical Advisor at the Direction générale de la santé publique, explained that the immunity provided by the first dose has been proven to be effective on the 42nd day and that from an epidemiological standpoint, its effectiveness does not immediately disappear thereafter.

According to estimates from the Direction de la santé publique, delaying the second dose from 42 to 90 days will enable over half a million additional people who are particularly at risk to be vaccinated, that is, those aged 70 and over.

“This is a major gain in terms of protecting the population,” said Dr. Massé.

300,000 doses a week by mid-March

The director of Québec’s vaccination campaign, Daniel Paré, stressed that Québec should be receiving 80,800 doses this week and 300,000 doses per month as of March 15.

Close to 65% of people living in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) have already received the first dose and more than 85,000 healthcare staff members have also been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Situation still critical in hospitals

Minister Dubé called on Quebecers, despite the accelerated vaccination schedule, to continue to fastidiously follow the government’s guidelines regarding lockdown, curfew, physical distancing, the wearing of masks, frequent handwashing and the ban on gatherings.

“Even though the daily number of cases seems to be stabilizing around 2,100, the number of hospitalizations and deaths is still too high,” said Mr. Dubé. The offloading of normally scheduled surgeries, tests and follow-up continues to the detriment of Quebecers due to the number of people infected with COVID-19.

The rise in hospitalizations puts even more pressure on the need for beds as well as on healthcare workers. The repatriation of healthcare staff from the regions to Montréal is also being considered in order to meet growing needs and to free up more beds for COVID-19 patients.

“The situation in hospitals in extremely fragile. The current 1,500 hospitalizations are due to the spike in cases in recent weeks,” said the minister of Health and Social Services.

Tighter lockdown and extended curfew

Minister Dubé suggested that if the situation in hospitals has not improved by February 8, the lockdown could be tightened and the curfew extended.

“The curfew is specifically designed to stop the rise in cases and to reduce the pressure on hospitals. We have good news about the number of cases, but not yet in terms of hospitalizations and deaths.”

The minister reiterated that “those who are not following the rules are harming the entire population.”