MONTREAL — Quebec expanded its COVID-19 vaccine distribution network on Monday with the opening of new clinics across the province that will help authorities ramp up the inoculation of the most vulnerable.
The Jeanne-Le Ber long-term care home in Montreal's east end received its first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Monday morning and residents began receiving shots hours later. Eighty-five-year-old retired police officer Normand Doyon was the first of 21 residents vaccinated.
"My two brothers and I discussed it and we agreed he should get vaccinated," one of Doyon's sons, Roland Doyon, said in an interview from his home northeast of Montreal.
Doyon said he has only seen his father twice outside the care home, in September and October, but said he speaks to him every day on the phone. "We just want to get a normal life back and I think the vaccine is the only way to get it," Roland Doyon said.
"We lost a lot of precious time with my father and we hope the vaccine will succeed."
Dr. Nathalie Zan, the medical co-ordinator for Jeanne-Le Ber, said the first day went off without a hitch, adding that the government's plan for controlling the contagion provincewide could take several months.
"Right now, we cannot lower our guard," Zan, a family doctor who specializes in geriatrics, said in an interview. "What's important now is to vaccinate as many people as possible, as soon as possible."
Quebec's Health Department said 21 new vaccination sites would be receiving doses this week, adding that deliveries could take a few days. "The establishments are ready to start vaccination as soon as possible after delivery," the department said in an email.
The new sites are in addition to the first two the province opened last week at long-term care homes in Montreal and Quebec City. Officials said the province administered 115 doses of COVID-19 vaccine Sunday for a total of 4,831 vaccinations since the campaign began last week.
Health Minister Christian Dube wrote on Twitter Monday, "Several sites in the different regions will receive their vaccines and will be able to start vaccination in the coming days."
"This is great news, but we must continue to adhere to the measures if we are to stop the increase in cases."
The expansion of Quebec's vaccine distribution network came as the province reported more than 2,000 new infections for a third straight day. Health authorities reported 2,108 new infections Monday and 30 more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus, two of which occurred in the previous 24 hours.
Hospitalizations increased by 38, to 1,048, and the number of intensive care patients remained stable at 146. Quebec said 1,825 more people recovered from the virus, for a total of 152,869 recoveries since the beginning of the pandemic.
The province has reported a total of 179,093 cases and 7,766 deaths. Quebec has 18,458 active reported infections.
The province also says caregivers 70 years old and older who provide regular support to a resident staying in a long-term care home will be treated like a health-care worker and will be able to receive a vaccine.
Health officials say one person per resident, who works three days a week or more, can be vaccinated with approval from the residence manager. The government had been under pressure to include caregivers among people prioritized to received the first doses of the vaccine.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2020.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press