MONTREAL _ There were long lineups outside some Montreal vaccine sites early Thursday morning as Quebec opened walk-in clinics offering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to those 55 and older.
Jean Nicolas Aube, a spokesman for the health authority representing the mass vaccine site at Montreal’s Palais des congres, said demand appeared to be strong, with lines beginning to form at about 6:30 a.m.
He said that shortly after the doors opened at 8 a.m., the site had already given out between 500 and 600 tickets for time slots later in the day to avoid having people wait in line.
“We’re very happy about it, because people are getting vaccinated,” he said.
Meanwhile, Quebec reported 1,609 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and a 23-patient jump in hospitalizations. The number of COVID-19 patients rose by 63 over the last three reporting periods, for a total of 566, and 132 people were in intensive care, a rise of nine compared with Wednesday’s report.
Health officials also reported nine more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. They said the province administered 47,769 doses of vaccine Wednesday, for a total of 1,685,046.
Currently, the AstraZeneca vaccine is only available to those between the ages of 55 and 79, after the government suspended its use in younger people over concerns about rare but serious blood clots.
Quebec has also lowered the eligible age to 60 across the province for those who wish to book vaccine appointments through the province’s web portal. Health Minister Christian Dube has said he wants all Quebecers 60 and over who want a first shot to be offered one by the end of the month.
The government said Wednesday it would expand access to COVID-19 vaccines to Montrealers who are essential workers or living with chronic illnesses in the coming days.
The expanded vaccine access comes as the province continues to battle a third wave of the virus that has seen cases spike in some regions, with Quebec City hit particularly hard. The capital region reported 436 new COVID-19 cases Thursday _ a 74 per cent rise compared with the previous day.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced he would hold a 5 p.m. news conference to address the situation.
In an effort to contain transmission, Quebec’s workplace health and safety board has announced that medical masks must be worn at all times in indoor workplaces beginning Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2021.