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Quebec to begin vaccinating general population next week, starting with age 85 and up

Last Updated Feb 23, 2021 at 6:19 pm EST

MONTREAL – Mass vaccination sites are being set up around Montreal, including at the historic Olympic Stadium.

Premier Francois Legault toured the building Tuesday and announced that the vaccination campaign is just about to ramp up, starting with older age groups of the general population.

“We’ll start with people over 85. If you’re over 85, you’ll be able to make an appointment from this Thursday. This is great news because vaccines are our best hope to win this battle,” said Legault.

Montreal’s big O will be one of the bigger locations for the 85 and up group to get vaccinated as of next week. And in the downtown core, there will be the Palais des congres.

WATCH: Premier François Legault, Health Minister Christian Dubé and Dr. Horacio Arruda will provide an update on COVID-19 in Quebec

“We’re still targeting the prioritized, [we’re] far from getting the general public vaccinated,” said Dr. Donald Vinh, infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at McGill University Health Centre.

The health ministry is expecting 200,000 vaccines to be delivered in the first weeks of March and, with 40,000 already in reserves, they think vaccinations will go quickly with the 85 and over group.

Since the campaign began on Dec. 14, more than 365,000 Quebecers have been vaccinated. The focus has been those in long-term care or CHSLDs and private residences as well as healthcare workers.

“And we are seeing the results. There are almost no more deaths in CHSLDs,” said Legault.

But concerns are rising over variant spread, with 23 confirmed cases of the variants first found in the U.K. and South Africa in the province and 484 presumptive cases.

“We must avoid gatherings to avoid a third wave,” said Legault.

Meanwhile, over 2,000 in the school system are infected with COVID-19–some schools even shutting down fully for two weeks days before restrictions are set to be relaxed over spring break with movie theaters swimming pools and arenas reopening Friday.

“Factors that are going in polar opposite directions, we have a vaccine shortage so less vaccines, an increase in the number of variants of concern, some of which might not be well protected by the vaccine. Now we’re adding a third factor: loosening of the restrictions on social activities. I’m not sure that the combination is logical. [I] wouldn’t be surprised if it caused problems in the next month,” said Vinh.

Legault says the hope is for Quebecers born in 1936 and earlier to get vaccinated in that time. Those eligible can do so by making an appointment online.

“The battle is not over. It takes three weeks for the vaccine to take effect,” said Legault.

“We must remain careful.”