(Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Quebec's vaccination campaign is ramping up after being reduced to a dribble for most of the year so far. The province has begun administering shots to the general population.
Here are answers to key questions about the province's evolving vaccination plan. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Who is up next?
Vaccinations are being administered differently depending on the region or local health authority.
Montreal public health made reservations available for residents 80 and over starting Friday, after more than 100,000 people registered on Thursday as part of the first round of vaccinations for those born in 1936 or earlier.
People born 70 and over who act as a primary caregiver — a care worker, partner or child, as long as they spend at least three days a week with the eligible senior — are also eligible.
Regional health authorities in Laval began vaccinating people on Feb. 25, just a few hours after the reservation system opened at 8 a.m. Montreal will begin vaccinations of that group March 1.
Some regions, like Quebec City, the Lower Saint-Lawrence and Abitibi-Témiscamingue, have already indicated they will vaccinate anyone who is 80 or over. But those vaccination campaigns won't get going in earnest until March 8.
Several other regions will open that day, like the Gaspé. Others, like the Eastern Townships and the Saguenay, are only scheduling appointments for the week of March 15.
Those born later will be eligible in the weeks to come.
Vaccination operations are also still underway at private seniors' homes and in remote communities.
How do I get an appointment?
Appointments can be made through the online portal quebec.ca/covidvaccine or by phone at 1-877-644-4545. Officials are encouraging people to go online if they can as that will be the most efficient way to reserve a spot.
What is the order or priority?
The priority groups as proposed by Quebec's immunization committee, the CIQ, are listed below:
Vulnerable people and people with a significant loss of autonomy who live in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) or in intermediate and family-type residences (RI‑RTFs).
Workers in the health and social services network who have contact with users.
Autonomous or semi-autonomous people who live in private seniors' homes (RPAs) or in certain closed residential facilities for older adults.
Isolated and remote communities.
People 80 years of age or older.
People 70 to 79 years of age.
People 60 to 69 years of age.
Adults under 60 years of age who have a chronic disease or health problem that increases the risk of complications of COVID‑19.
Adults under 60 years of age who do not have a chronic disease or health problem that increases the risk of complications, but who provide essential services and have contact with users.
The rest of the adult population.
Who is on the medical priority list?
Adults under 60 years of age who have a chronic disease or health problem that increases the risk of complications of COVID‑19. The Health Ministry says it has not yet determined how criteria are measured and that it will be advising the population once it has.
Who is considered an essential worker?
The Health Ministry says it is still working to determine the list of workers who will have access to vaccination, namely those who are "providing essential services and who are in contact with users."
Where will I get my vaccine?
Montreal health authorities have, in recent weeks, announced plans to turn arenas, office buildings and, yes, the Olympic Stadium into mass vaccination sites.
Can I pay for a vaccine to get it faster?
In Quebec, COVID-19 vaccines are provided exclusively by the public health network. A vaccine cannot be purchased from a private source. Any phone call or email offering a vaccine for a fee is fraudulent, the Health Ministry advises.
Have health workers who administer the vaccine already had it?
According to the health authorities for the west and north parts of the island of Montreal, staff who are administering the vaccine have already had access to it.
When will I get my second dose?
The Quebec government has decided to delay the second in the two-dose protocol for up to 90 days in order to maximize the number of people who can be injected immediately. But even one dose provides substantial protection.
According to the provincial public health research institute, a single dose has proven to be about 80 per cent effective so far after between 14 and 21 days — meaning a vaccinated person is 80 per cent less likely to get COVID-19 than an unvaccinated person.
Those results have been confirmed by data in Israel and Scotland. Quebec has confirmed everyone who is vaccinated will get a second dose, but there is a substantial body of evidence from other vaccines suggesting a lengthier delay than the 21 or 28 days prescribed by vaccine makers may actually confer longer lasting immunity.
How effective are the vaccines against variant strains?
It depends on the vaccine, and the strain.
Recent clinical data shows that B117, the strain identified in the United Kingdom, has "no significant effect on neutralization" when it comes to the Moderna vaccine. Other studies have reached broadly similar conclusions for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is based on the same technology. The B117 variant is by far the most prevalent in Quebec so far.
The news is less positive for the B1351 variant, isolated in South Africa. Laboratory studies suggest efficiency may be reduced by as much as two-thirds. Only two cases of the B1351 have been confirmed in Quebec to this point.
However, pharmaceutical companies are working on booster shots and tweaks to the vaccine formulas.
Will the vaccine stop me from spreading the virus to loved ones?
This is one of the questions the vaccine trials didn't answer, but based on newly-published research conducted in Israel, it appears the answer may be yes.