Quebec’s mass vaccination campaign got underway in earnest in the Montreal area this morning as members of the general public began receiving their first shots.
The province announced last week that it was booking appointments for seniors age 85 and up across the province, or 80 and above in Montreal.
By Monday morning, public health officials announced they were widening eligibility to those 70 and older in Montreal, Laval and the Cote-Nord region, while the age limit was lowered to 80 in three other regions, including Quebec City.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante tweeted that the expanded eligibility was “good news” for Montrealers, adding that the vaccine operation was going well.
Quebec began accepting appointments last Thursday, with nearly 100,000 booked on Day One of the campaign.
Some regions started vaccinating members of the general population late last week, but the campaign is expected to speed up considerably with the opening of mass vaccine clinics in the Montreal area, including ones at the Olympic Stadium and the downtown convention centre.
Outlying regions are mainly expected to ramp up after the March break holiday, which takes place this week.
Quebec has so far concentrated its vaccination effort on health-care workers, people living in remote regions and seniors in closed environments, such as long-term care and private seniors residences.
The province has chosen to delay giving second doses in favour of administering a first jab to as many people as possible, but the province’s health minister said last week it will provide second doses beginning March 15.
Quebec Premier François Legault said Saturday that the start of the mass vaccination campaign was giving him “a lot of hope,” even as he expressed concern about spring break week and the spread of new virus variants.
In a Facebook message, he urged Quebecers to remain vigilant for the coming weeks to allow the province to vaccinate more people, and to wait for immunity to fully develop in those who have received a shot.