Vaccination blitz targets parents of young children in two Montreal COVID hot spots

·3 min read

MONTREAL — Health officials are launching a vaccination blitz targeting the parents of children living in two Montreal neighbourhoods considered hot spots for the community transmission of the B.1.1.7 novel coronavirus variant.

Montreal public health director Dr. Mylene Drouin says the vaccination pilot project will begin Monday in two neighbourhoods that account for 26 per cent of cases in the city involving more transmissible variants.

“What we’ve seen in Montreal is that we have more and more variants, but also what we’ve seen is we have a concentration of variants in specific sectors,” Drouin told a news conference Thursday, referring to Cote-St-Luc and Plamondon.

Drouin said 86 per cent of cases in Cote St-Luc are tied to outbreaks in daycares or schools, which she said indicates a pattern of transmission.

“We do have variants in other territories, but with our suppressive strategy and a good control of outbreaks, we are not seeing community transmission in other neighbourhoods," she said.

The vaccination blitz is aimed at parents of children in daycares and schools, but Drouin said the program could extend to teachers and daycare educators. She said because children can't be vaccinated, officials expect outbreaks to continue among that population.

“What we will evaluate is if we are able to reduce the attack rate in households and if we can reduce the spreading of the virus to other territories,” Drouin said.

Speaking to reporters later in the day, Health Minister Christian Dube praised the pilot project, calling it "innovative" and expressing hope it will help control the spread of the variant.

Dube made the comments at Montreal's downtown convention centre, shortly after receiving his first dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

"I'm very, very happy to have received it," he said, adding that he thinks it's important for members of the government to back up public health recommendations through their actions.

Dube said he's still confident that every adult in Quebec who wants to will be able to get at least one dose of vaccine by June 24.

While that will require an average of 50,000 doses to be administered a day between now and June 24, well above the current average, Dube said he thinks the province can catch up as more vaccine becomes available.

"In March and April, it is normal that we will be below this average of 50,000, because we don't have the vaccine right now," he said. "But in May and June, we'll be above that average ... there will be a ramp-up over the next three or four months."

The province said it administered 26,225 vaccine doses Wednesday, for a total of 832,469, representing about 9.8 per cent of the population.

The number of confirmed variant cases in the province remained at 541 Thursday, with 2,548 presumptive cases. Montreal has 327 confirmed variant cases, mostly of the more contagious B.1.1.7 mutation first identified in the United Kingdom.

On Thursday, Quebec reported 702 new COVID-19 infections and surpassed 300,000 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Health officials reported seven more deaths attributed to the virus and a 13-patient drop in hospitalizations, for a total of 519. Officials said 101 people were in intensive care, a drop of six.

Quebec has reported a total of 300,152 infections and 10,576 deaths linked to the virus; the province has 6,883 active reported cases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2021.

-- With files from Jacob Serebrin

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press