Quebec will have the staff and the infrastructure ready to begin vaccinating people against COVID-19 by Jan. 1, the province’s health minister said Thursday.
“Do we have the people on the ground? The answer is yes. Can we do more than (200,000) per week? The answer is yes,” Christian Dube told reporters in Quebec City.
Residents of long-term care homes and health-care workers will receive the vaccine first, followed by seniors living outside state-run care, Premier Francois Legault said.
Quebec is working to ensure the infrastructure for vaccines, such as the one developed by Pfizer — which requires sub-zero storage — is ready by the beginning of January, Dube said. The province will use its existing distribution system for the flu vaccine to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, he added.
Dube said Quebec is able to administer more than 200,000 flu vaccines per week, adding that the government is planning to add enough capacity to vaccinate up to 500,000 people per week against COVID-19.
The only thing Quebec is waiting for, Legault said, is for the federal government to say when the vaccine will be available in Canada and how many doses Quebec will receive every week.
Quebec reported 32 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Thursday and 1,464 new infections — the highest daily total of new cases since the pandemic began.
Dube said earlier in the day that the jump in case numbers shows that the battle against the virus is “far from won,” and he urged Quebecers to respect public health measures and limit their contacts to slow the spread of the virus.
The regions with the highest number of new cases were Montreal with 336; Saguenay, north of Quebec City, with 211; and Monteregie, southeast of Montreal, with 187. Saguenay remains Quebec’s most affected region on a per capita basis with almost 413 active cases per 100,000 people — more than three times the rate of Montreal.
Health authorities said eight of the newly attributed COVID-19 deaths had taken place within the previous 24 hours. They said the number of people in hospital rose by 20 from a day earlier, to 675, and 90 of those people were in intensive care — a decrease of three.
A COVID-19 outbreak at a long-term care centre in Montreal continued to grow, with five new cases reported on Thursday. Forty-five residents of the Maimonides geriatric centre have active cases of COVID-19 and six people have died, according to Health Department data.
Meanwhile, Quebec’s Education Department said Thursday that elections for English-language school boards, previously scheduled for Dec. 20, will be postponed for the second time.
Legault said he decided to postpone the elections because the vote was scheduled less than a week before the four-day period when the province plans to allow gatherings up to ten people. The premier has asked people to minimize their contacts during the week before and after they gather for the holidays.
Quebec has reported a total of 136,894 COVID-19 infections and 6,947 deaths linked to the virus.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press