Quebec using honour system to expand vaccine access to chronically ill, disabled

·3 min read

MONTREAL — Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube says he trusts Quebecers to follow the honour system and not skip the line when vaccination appointments open for more people with chronic illnesses.

People with conditions such as diabetes, obesity and respiratory problems can start making appointments Friday morning, Dube told reporters Thursday, adding that those with physical or intellectual disabilities can start booking their shots on April 28.

Quebec had previously opened vaccination appointments to people with chronic illnesses who require regular hospital care, such as cancer patients and organ transplant recipients. Dube said he is not requiring newly eligible people to prove they are ill before they get vaccinated, adding that he doesn't want health-care workers to "play police."

"We're relying on the good faith, not only of those who have these chronic illnesses, but we're also relying on Quebecers who are not part of these groups to wait a little longer," he said.

The new rules give vaccine access to about 300,000 more people with chronic illnesses and 250,000 people with disabilities as well as their caregivers, Dube said.

"We all recognize the need to protect those people as quickly as possible and the good news is we can do it today with the announcement of additional doses of (Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine) in the last few days," Dube said.

Daniel Pare, head of Quebec's vaccination campaign, told reporters that the news on Thursday that more than one million expected doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine would not be arriving to Canada from India won't impact the plan.

Pare said the government is basing its vaccine rollout to the chronically ill on the supply of the Pfizer vaccine.

"There's no impact on all the announcements we've made for the entire month of May," he said, adding that the government is still committed to giving every Quebecer who wants to be vaccinated at least one dose by June 24.

Quebec set a daily record for COVID-19 vaccinations after administering 85,772 doses on Wednesday. Dube said that number includes more than 30,000 AstraZeneca doses.

On Wednesday, Quebecers 45 and older officially became eligible to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Dube said 103,000 people have scheduled an appointment to get an AstraZeneca dose.

In much of the province, all the appointments to receive that vaccine have been filled, Pare said. "There will be no AstraZeneca left, probably, in four or five days."

Earlier Thursday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said he and a number of other premiers were writing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging him to tighten restrictions on land and air travel to prevent the entry of more novel coronavirus variants. He said the premiers were particularly concerned about flights from India and Brazil.

The letter, released on Thursday afternoon, was signed by Legault and Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Legault's office said the premiers of Alberta and British Columbia also support the letter.

Later that day, the federal government announced it will suspend passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told reporters there are no passenger flights currently scheduled from Brazil.

Legault, however, said the premiers are also worried about people crossing into Canada from the land border with the United States. "We would like to see more measures, including quarantine, to make sure we prevent the increase in the number of people infected in Canada," Legault said Thursday morning.

The province reported 1,248 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus Thursday. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by five, to 711, and 174 people were in intensive care, a drop of four. Quebec has 12,124 active reported cases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 22, 2021.

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

Sidhartha Banerjee and Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press