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Quebec to Maintain COVID-Era Vaccination Centers, Enhance Testing as COVID Cases Surge

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Quebec, the province will spend $1.36 billion over five years to upgrade temporary vaccination centres set up during the pandemic and make them permanent, with some 100 centres with upgraded testing capabilities to be ready by October.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé announced Sept. 8 that the centres will be offering more services, including blood, urine, stool, and infection tests. They will be in addition to the 160 existing sample collection centres.

While the centres will continue administering various types of vaccines, they will also take samples and test for infections such as those linked to group A streptococcal diseases.

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The investment, amounting to $272 million per year, is being made with the hopes of relieving hospital overcrowding with the arrival of the new COVID-19 variant called EG.5 variant, also known as Eris.

The province’s goal is to have around 100 facilities ready by October to coincide with the arrival of the variant.

The number of workers at the sites will also be scaled up. While Mr. Dubé said the province has 10,000 people recruited through the “Je contribute” program currently working at vaccination centres, he hopes to mobilize up to 20,000 employees.

The sites will still offer vaccinations against COVID-19, influenza, and shingles.

Weeks ago, Mr. Dubé had said the province would be deploying a new vaccination campaign against the variant in the fall.

“We are following that very closely. Dr. Luc Boileau and public health will take a position with Quebec’s immunization committee over the next two weeks,” said health minister Christian Dubé in mid-August, reported Global News.
“We’re just trying to finalize with those experts, who should be vaccinated and when and what are the exceptions.”

Warnings of Another Wave

At a Sept. 8 press conference that coincided with the announcement around vaccination centres, Mr. Dubé warned that the number of people infected with COVID-19 and staying at Quebec hospitals has tripled in the past month, rising from around 300 three weeks earlier to 881 as of Sept. 6.

People admitted to hospitals for other reasons but later tested positive for COVID-19 can be included in those statistics.

The health minister said he would not predict a resurgence of COVID-19 this fall but wanted to make sure the provincial health-care network is ready.

“Will it be 2,000 or 3,000 patients admitted to hospital? We don’t know. But we do know that the best remedy is vaccination, and we’re telling Quebecers who want it that they can be vaccinated,” he said.

Mr. Dubé also said he did not want to “worry the population” because it was “no fun what we’ve been through for three years [of the pandemic].”

The minister added that many people would already have some built-in immunity to the strain if they had previously contracted COVID-19 or been vaccinated against it.

Health Canada is currently considering authorizing three new vaccines against the new variant: two mRNA vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, and a third one which is a non-mRNA vaccine from Novavax, CBC News reported.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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