Quebec to expand vaccination to people 65 and up in Montreal area: health minister

Quebec is ready to increase the pace of its COVID-19 vaccination campaign and could soon begin vaccinating people 65 and older in the Montreal area, Health Minister Christian Dubé said Tuesday.

Quebec has received around 200,000 doses of vaccines against the novel coronavirus that have not yet been administered and expects to receive another 1.1 million doses by the end of the month, Dubé told reporters in Quebec City.

He said he could announce the lowering of the minimum age for members of the general public in the Montreal area to be vaccinated as soon as Thursday.

Currently, vaccination is available to anyone 70 and up in the Montreal area, the most affected region in the province.

“We want to get to 65 and older as soon as possible,” Dubé said.

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Read more: Quebec to go against advice from national vaccine panel and give AstraZeneca to 65+

People 65 and older have accounted for 80 per cent of hospitalizations — and 95 per cent of deaths — linked to COVID-19, Premier François Legault said at the same news conference.

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Almost a year after the premier put the province into “emergency mode,” he acknowledged that the province could have done more to protect elderly residents of long-term care centres. Nearly 5,000 deaths in Quebec’s long-term care centres have been linked to COVID-19.

Earlier in the day, a federation representing several Quebec teachers unions sought a court order that would require the provincial government to retest air quality in schools.

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Coronavirus: Quebec declares March 11 as ‘day of mourning’

The Federation autonome de l’enseignement says a government report on air quality in schools released in January didn’t accurately measure the concentration of carbon dioxide in classrooms.

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That data is crucial because “the higher the CO2 level, the more it encourages the spread of the virus,” federation president Sylvain Mallette said in an interview Tuesday.

The federation — which commissioned a report from engineering firm EXP criticizing the government’s air quality study — said it’s worried poor ventilation puts students and teachers at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Mallette said the federation wants air quality in schools to be tested using criteria set out in the EXP report and for the government to create a timeline to address air quality issues in schools and to share the results of the new tests with the federation.

Quebec reported 650 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and 12 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including four within the previous 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by 14, to 576, and 110 people were in intensive care, a rise of two.

Officials said 16,357 doses of vaccine were administered Monday, bringing the province’s total to 581,028.

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COVID-19: Quebec returns to zone orange

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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