Quebec Steps Up Efforts to Increase Vaccination Rates Using Ads and Mobile Clinic in Mosque
MONTREAL – Health officials operated a pop-up vaccination clinic in a hard-hit Montreal neighborhood for a second day in a row on Wednesday, as the Quebec government continued to step up efforts to increase vaccination rates.
More than 100 people were lined up in front of a mosque in the Parc-Extension district of Montreal before a walk-in vaccination clinic opened at 2 p.m. Health officials said the clinic will facilitate immunizations for citizens of the multi-ethnic neighborhood, some of whom work unconventional hours at essential jobs or speak neither French nor English.
Salam Elmenyawi, the mosque’s imam, said he did not expect so many people to attend and was delighted to see the initiative’s success. The walk-in clinic, he added, is also a way to let the community know that vaccination is allowed during the holy month of Ramadan, which began on April 13.
“It is exactly the rule of the mosque, to be part of the interaction with our society, our own neighborhood,” Elmenyawi said in an interview on Wednesday. “The virus itself does not recognize and care about your religion, your background, your gender.”
The province vaccinated just over 38% of the population with at least one dose. In Montreal, that figure is 34%. 100, while in Parc-Extension, it is 20.6%. 100, according to a spokesperson for the local health authority.
In line at the mosque was Lee Dupuis, who said he preferred a walk-in clinic to appointment scheduling. “The faster the better,” he said. “This will help resolve the situation and things can start over.”
Claudia Gutierrez, a few meters ahead of Dupuis in the line, works next door and had already made a vaccination appointment at the downtown convention center. But she said she preferred to get a vaccine closer to work.
“It’s exciting because it’s right next door,” Gutierrez said. “I hope that will speed up the process.”
As vaccine shipments increase, Quebec health officials are expanding access to younger members of the general population and encouraging them to make appointments. A new advertisement released by the health ministry on Wednesday showed people playing sports, socializing in bars and hugging loved ones, with the message “every shot brings us closer to those times.”
Health Minister Christian Dubé wrote on Twitter that a record 236,617 people made vaccine appointments on Tuesday after the province lowered the eligibility age to people as young as 40 .
Montreal’s vaccination centers had booked just over 82,000 appointments for the next seven days as of Wednesday, with 4,257 free places remaining. As of Tuesday, the province had met its goal of making appointments or shooting at least 75% of residents 55 and older.
However, Quebec’s director of public health said it was not clear whether that target will need to be exceeded to achieve collective immunity. He said the actual number would depend on how much the virus has mutated.
“People talk about 75 percent, others (say) 80 percent,” Dr. Horacio Arruda told reporters in Quebec on Tuesday. “You know, it’s very difficult to have an exact number, actually, because we need more information about the different cycles of the disease (over the years).”
Previous attempts to encourage Montrealers to get vaccinated included sound trucks blowing up residential streets and door-knocking campaigns. Parc-Extension health officials told reporters on Tuesday they were ready to offer more pop-up clinics in the coming weeks, including in parks.
Meanwhile, Quebec on Wednesday reported 915 new cases of COVID-19 and five other deaths attributed to the new coronavirus. Health officials said the number of hospitalizations fell by six, to 588, with a drop of three intensive care patients, for a total of 152.
Dubé called the situation encouraging, pointing out that the seven-day average of new cases in Quebec has fallen below the 1,000 mark.
The province’s vaccination effort will be boosted by news that Health Canada on Wednesday approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 12 and older. Dubé said the province was waiting for advice from its provincial expert committee on vaccines before unveiling a plan, but promised the health system would be ready to vaccinate teens when the time comes.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 5, 2021.