The Quebec government will allow people aged 70 and over to book an appointment for their third COVID-19 vaccine dose as of Nov. 16.
The province's immunization committee, the CIQ, has recommended that Quebecers in that age group be offered a third dose in order to boost their immunity against the virus.
The appointments will roll out gradually, per age groups over 70, starting with 80 years and over. However, a period of six months has to have elapsed since the person's second COVID-19 vaccine dose.
People of any age who have had two doses of Astra Zeneca will also soon be eligible to make an appointment for a third dose, this time of an mRNA vaccine, said Health Minister Christian Dubé at a news conference Tuesday.
The Quebec government will also soon administer third doses to seniors living in long-term care homes and private seniors' residences, Dubé said.
He said the roughly 220,000 people in long-term care homes should receive a third dose by the end of November.
The province had announced in late September it would offer booster shots to prevent outbreaks among vulnerable residents in those settings.
Since August, Quebec has offered a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to people who are severely immunocompromised.
While boosters for the general population weren't part of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization's recommendations at the end of October, provinces such as Ontario and British Columbia have already announced plans to expand eligibility for third shots.
WATCH | Health Minister Christian Dubé announces booster shots for people 70+
As of Nov. 6, several groups of Ontarians have been eligible for booster doses, including those aged 70 and older; health-care workers; people who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson; and First Nations, Inuit and Metis adults and their non-Indigenous household members.
In British Columbia, the policy is similar, and the government has also announced a plan to give all people 18 and older a third shot starting January 2022.
Health minister takes aim at nurse unions
At the news conference Tuesday, Dubé veered onto the topic of recruiting nurses back into the public system and blamed unions for stalling the government's efforts.
He said union delegates appeared more concerned about lobbying for themselves to qualify for the $15,000 bonuses that are being offered to nurses working full-time than helping recruit staff who had left the public system.
In September, the government announced it would be offering bonuses of up $18,000 as part of its emergency plan to fix the staffing crisis in the province's health-care network.
Bonuses of $15,000 are being offered to full-time nurses and part-time nurses in the public system willing to work full time. Nurses who quit will get $12,000 if they come back, and nurses in regions particularly hard hit by the pandemic could receive bonuses of $18,000.
According to the Health Ministry, about 3,000 health workers have accepted the offer to work full time and 864 were hired back into the system. Dubé said the ministry is negotiated with nearly 3,800 more potential candidates, but said unions are discouraging them with signing the government's offer so far.
"We created a very clear program to reduce the use of overtime, we developed attractive bonuses and what I've been hearing for weeks is, 'Yeah, but we union delegates don't have access to [the bonuses]," Dubé said.
"Their priority is to have access to the bonuses, while our intention was that the bonuses be for nurses on the ground treating patients."