Quebec launches 'massive' COVID-19 vaccination campaign ahead of fall

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QUEBEC — Premier François Legault said Tuesday the government would launch a "massive" vaccination booster campaign to get ahead of the next wave of COVID-19, which he said is expected after students return to class and people start spending more time indoors.

All Quebecers over the age of 18 will be eligible to make an appointment for a booster by the end of the month, Legault told reporters in Quebec City alongside Health Minister Christian Dubé and public health director Dr. Luc Boileau.

"Fall is arriving, that means back-to-school, people are back from vacation, there's more (social) interaction, more transmission, so it's a good time to launch a massive campaign like we previously did," Legault said.

Quebec residents can get a booster if it's been five months since their last COVID-19 vaccine — or three months since they were last infected with the novel coronavirus, the premier said.

Dubé said vaccine appointments will open for people 60 and older next week and for everyone 18 and up on Aug. 29. Quebec started offering fifth doses of COVID-19 vaccine to residents of long-term care homes and private seniors residences on Monday.

Dubé said Quebec has the capacity to vaccinate about 300,000 people per week, but he acknowledged Quebecers might not rush to get a booster jab. Only 56 per cent of the population aged five and older have received a third dose, according to the Health Department.

"It's because a lot of people had COVID-19," Dubé said. "A lot of them decided to not get a booster shot because of it."

Despite the new vaccination campaign and worries of a new wave, officials said there was no plan to impose restrictions. Boileau said the measures that are currently in place in schools are "enough," and he rejected the idea of installing air purifiers in classrooms.

"We looked at that option and we aren't recommending it," he said. "If people want to have it, we can let them do it, but we are not recommending that."

Meanwhile, Quebec reported 36 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus Tuesday and a 29-patient drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations. The Health Department said there were 1,964 people in hospital with the disease, including 50 people in intensive care, a drop of five.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 16, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press