Quebec starts COVID-19 vaccination bookings for seniors; those in Ontario must wait

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Quebec starts COVID-19 vaccination bookings for seniors; those in Ontario must wait

Quebecers 85 years and older were able to register for COVID-19 vaccinations starting Thursday, while seniors in Ontario will have to wait weeks to book in that province.

The Quebec appointments are to begin next week in the Montreal region.

Ontario’s vaccine distribution committee, blaming a lack of supply for the delay, has said seniors won’t be able to book appointments until March 15.

Provinces are moving forward with their vaccine distribution plans as federal officials assure the disruptions that have plagued supply lines have been rectified.

The vaccine appointment launch in Alberta on Wednesday left many frustrated when the government's online portal crashed after more than 150,000 people tried to get access to it about the same time. Some 230,000 people born in 1946 or earlier are now eligible to be immunized in that province.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, military commander in charge of the federal vaccine distribution program, said he understands that provinces may not have a lot of confidence in dose deliveries after a disappointing performance in February.

But supply is already ramping back up, he said. The largest number of doses yet was delivered this week — 643,000 across the country.

"Provinces are now in a position to fully deploy their immunization plans," Fortin said.

Even with setbacks in recent weeks, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, said more than 40 per cent of seniors over 80 have received one dose of the vaccine. About 5.5 per cent have received a second dose.

Njoo cautioned it is not time for people to let their guard down.

"For now, however, COVID-19 remains a serious threat”

Concern over spread of the novel coronavirus in Quebec has prompted officials there to require primary school students in red pandemic-alert zones, including the greater Montreal area, to wear masks starting March 8.

It won't apply to certain students with special needs or when children are playing outside.

The more contagious B.1.1.7 variant — first detected in the United Kingdom — has become a significant concern in Montreal, where there is still widespread community transmission. The variant is making up eight to 10 per cent of new cases.

Dr. Mylene Drouin, Montreal's public health director, said 40 per cent of cases linked to variants in the city involved children.

Hospitalizations, however, are declining provincewide. Health authorities are reporting 858 new infections and 16 more deaths.

Ontario was to release new COVID-19 projections later Thursday. The province has reported 1,138 new infections and 23 more deaths linked to the virus.

There has been a total of 20,945 new cases across Canada over the past seven days.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press