Montreal health-care worker David S. Landsman said Monday he was worried after learning his appointment for a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine had been cancelled following Quebec's decision to change its immunization strategy.
The orderly at the Jewish General Hospital said getting the first dose of the vaccine on Dec. 17 felt like a step toward a return to a normal life. His second dose had been scheduled for Jan. 7, but he said he was told Monday his appointment had been cancelled indefinitely.
"I was blindsided," he said in an interview. The regional health authority that runs the Jewish General Hospital confirmed Monday it had postponed the second vaccination for all its employees and long-term care residents.
Quebec announced a change to its vaccine strategy last week. Instead of holding back half the shipments of vaccine for second doses, it would vaccinate as many different people as possible with a first dose. The province said it modified the approach after vaccine-maker Pfizer changed its guidance for vaccine distribution.
Health Department spokeswoman Noemie Vanheuverzwijn said Monday in an email, "By not saving the second dose, this new directive gives us the opportunity to open more vaccination slots."
Vanheuverzwijn wouldn't say, however, when the department expects to begin administering second doses, only that the injections will be administered "within the time limits prescribed by public health to ensure maximum vaccine coverage."
Landsman, who doesn't work directly with COVID-19 patients, said he believes the first shot gave him a measure of protection against the novel coronavirus. But he said he worries it will take too long to get a second shot and that he'll have to get a third dose to be fully covered.
"When I do get it again, will they count it as vaccine number two and will it be as effective? Or will they say, 'oh, we're going to backtrack,' and this is vaccine number one all over again?" Landsman said.
Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, the CEO of the health authority that governs the Jewish General Hospital, says he realized health-care workers may be disappointed they won't receive a second injection according to the original schedule.
In a message to staff that was shared Monday with The Canadian Press, Rosenberg said, "Please rest assured that this change will not affect your health or well-being.
"In fact, research has shown that the Pfizer vaccine achieves 90 per effectiveness two weeks after the first dose has been administered. The second dose is a 'booster' shot that enhances the already high level of protection."
Rosenberg said the health authority plans to vaccinate workers at long-term care centres who have not yet received the first dose.
Meanwhile, Quebec's Liberal party has stripped former interim leader Pierre Arcand of his role in its shadow cabinet after he took a recent holiday to Barbados during the pandemic. Arcand, who represents Mount Royal-Outremont in Quebec's legislature, had been the Liberal critic for matters related to Montreal and to transportation.
The Official Opposition said Monday in a news release Arcand's responsibilities will be reassigned.
Quebec reported 2,546 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 32 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. The Health Department said 1,294 people were in hospital with the disease, a rise of 69 patients from the day before, while the number of people in intensive care rose by nine, to 188.
As of Jan. 2, the most recent date for which data is available, Quebec reported a test positivity rate of 11.2 per cent. Officials said 1,711 doses of vaccine were administered Sunday, for a total of 30,473. Quebec has reported 212,850 cases of COVID-19 and 8,379 deaths linked to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press