Staff, residents at Gatineau nursing home awaiting COVID-19 vaccine

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Nearly 600 residents and staff at CHSLD Lionel-Émond in Gatineau, Que., one of the largest long-term care facilities in the Outaouais, should begin receiving a COVID-19 vaccine next week, according to the region's public health authority.

Unlike Ontario, where hospitals are administering the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to front-line staff, Quebec has chosen to send its allocation directly to long-term care facilities so residents can also be inoculated.

"We've seen the impact of infections on our long-term care facilities," said Dr. Carol McConnery, infectious disease specialist with the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO).

"With this approach we can start immunizing residents [and] health-care workers simultaneously."

19 deaths at CHSLD Lionel-Émond

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé announced Thursday that 21 more sites will receive shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine beginning Monday, including CHSLD Lionel-Émond, where 17 residents and two staff members died during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to McConnery, the home was chosen because of its central location, because its large size makes it especially vulnerable to outbreaks, and because it has the equipment to store vaccine, which must be kept in extremely cold conditions, on site.

We're ready to go as soon as the vaccines are available. - Dr. Carol McConnery, CISSSO

McConnery wasn't able to say precisely how many doses CHSLD Lionel-Émond will receive, nor when they'll arrive.

"We're ready to go as soon as the vaccines are available," she said. "We're ready to go that same day, that same hour."

McConnery said if there's any vaccine left over, staff at neighbouring homes will be offered doses as well.

Patrick Guay, acting president of the union representing nurses in the region, said health-care workers are relieved to see the first vaccines finally arrive.

"All I can say is, finally," said Guay in a French-language interview.

CISSSO has put out a call for trained health-care workers including retired nurses to help with the vaccination campaign.