This year's flu shot will be free for everyone in Quebec effective immediately, the provincial government announced Friday.
Previously, Quebecers who were not deemed at-risk for serious complications from influenza had to pay out-of-pocket to receive the flu shot. Quebec is the only Canadian province that does not regularly offer the vaccine for free to all its residents.
According to a statement released by the Health Ministry, the free campaign is an "exceptional" measure for this year, amid heavy traffic in the province's emergency rooms, due to rising cases of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the flu and COVID-19.
"[Those factors], combined with the imminent arrival of the holiday season, justified expanding access to the vaccine against influenza," it read.
This is a reversal. Last week, Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec's public health director, said a free flu shot for everyone wasn't recommended by Quebec's immunization committee.
Friday's statement says the decision was made "after consultations with public health authorities."
Speaking to CBC Montreal's Daybreak Friday morning, Boileau said having that many viruses circulating in Quebec was "a completely abnormal situation."
He said the decision to make the shot more widely available was made, in part, because at-risk individuals are not getting the shots are much as the government would like.
"Right now, we are not observing what we should for the uptake," he said.
"[This measure] is mostly to allow those people to be vaccinated and to encourage them, but also to allow everyone that would feel more comfortable ... to have access to vaccinations."
The statement said that those who have already paid for the vaccine will not be reimbursed.