MONTREAL — Quebec will begin offering an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine to vulnerable seniors and long-term care residents, the province's public health director said Thursday as Quebec surpassed 16,000 pandemic deaths.
Dr. Luc Boileau said teams will travel to long-term care and seniors' homes to offer a booster on site beginning Aug. 15.
At the same time, members of the general public will be able to begin booking appointments, beginning with those 80 and over, health workers and people in remote communities, he said.
Because immunity wanes over time, Boileau said it's important for people to stay up to date on vaccinations, especially those who are more vulnerable.
"We invite all citizens who have that profile, especially those who are older, more vulnerable and with chronic illnesses, to take advantage of that vaccination," he said. He said a new dose is recommended five months after the previous one, although those who have been infected with COVID-19 in the meantime can wait a little longer if they prefer.
Boileau declined to use the term "fifth dose," even though the province has been offering fourth doses to long-term care residents and vulnerable seniors since the end of March. Instead of counting doses, he said people should consider how long it's been since their last vaccine when deciding whether to get a booster.
"Has it has been five months, six months? If so, it’s the time to go get it," he told reporters in Montreal.
He urged those who are eligible for shots to get them rather than waiting for new vaccines that are more tailored to the currently circulating variants, because the timeline for rolling out the new vaccines remains unclear.
Boileau said there has been an improvement in the COVID-19 situation in the province in recent days and suggested the current wave of COVID-19 is beginning to subside. However, he said officials anticipate a surge as early as September, after people return to school and increase their contacts as they gather indoors.
The health director also said that demand for vaccines for the six-month to five-year age bracket has been "limited," but suggested the weak demand might be due to summer vacations or the fact that many children have already caught COVID-19 in the past few months.
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 deaths in the province crossed the 16,000 mark on Thursday. Health authorities reported 18 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to 16,010. Hospitalizations linked to the disease fell by 10, to 2,136, and the number of people in intensive care remained stable at 67.
Quebec reported its first COVID-19 death in March 2020, shortly after the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic.
Provincial data shows that the overwhelming majority of deaths have occurred among seniors over the age of 70 and that nearly 69 per cent of deaths have involved people 80 or older.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2022.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press