As of Tuesday, Quebecers will be able to move up their second COVID-19 vaccine dose to as early as four weeks after their first shot — a change the government hopes will accelerate vaccination coverage across the province.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé made the announcement during a news conference Monday, stressing the importance of people getting fully vaccinated.
“Starting tomorrow you can advance your appointment on the Clic Santé website from eight weeks to whatever you want, be it six weeks, five weeks,” Dubé explained, as long as the minimum four-week interval is respected.
The change is possible because the province now has about two million vaccine doses available, Dubé said. He noted it’s similar to how Quebec had initially set the interval to 16 weeks before lowering it to eight when supply increased.
Asked about the shift in position, Dubé said he believed Quebec had already made it clear that people could get their second dose after four weeks, but said he understands how some have found the process confusing.
Before Monday’s change, people were able to get their second dose after four weeks by going to walk-in clinics. Those using the Clic Santé website to advance their appointment, however, were only given the option of booking their second dose at least eight weeks later.
The system will be tweaked by Tuesday and will no longer require the eight-week interval, Dubé said.
The four-week period is in line with the minimum recommended by vaccine manufacturers, including Pfizer and Moderna. But Dubé said anyone opting for it should still be aware studies suggest protection is better if they wait longer than the minimum.
As of this week, about 80 per cent of eligible Quebecers have received one vaccine dose. Thirty-six per cent have received their second.
Dubé said the province’s main concern at the moment is ensuring people in the 18–29 age group get vaccinated, noting they’re still trailing behind others.
For the age group to hit the 75 per cent threshold the government has set as a goal, Dubé said some 115,000 people still need to get their doses.
He said that group, especially those who are between the ages of 18 and 24, is concerning because it’s them who will be returning to CEGEP and university campuses in the fall.
“We have the next two months to get the job done,” Dubé said. “If we want an in-person return to CEGEPs and universities, we absolutely need to be at even higher than 75 per cent.”
But even if a resurgence in cases is possible given the uncertainties surrounding the Delta variant, Dubé said the province has no intention of returning to a full-blown lockdown.