Canadian care home residents challenge delay of second COVID-19 vaccine shot

by Reuters
Wednesday, 6 January 2021 18:56 GMT

By Allison Lampert

MONTREAL, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Residents of a Canadian long-term care home who received some of the first COVID-19 vaccine shots administered in the country have threatened to seek a court injunction if they do not get the second recommended shot in the coming days.

Residents of the Maimonides Geriatric Center in Montreal said they received a first shot of the Pfizer Inc vaccine on Dec. 14 and they were expecting to get a second dose on Jan. 3, but are still waiting, according to a statement on Wednesday.

"Our clients agreed to be vaccinated on condition that they receive the two doses from Pfizer," lawyer Julius Grey said in a letter sent to the Quebec government on Tuesday.

If the second doses are not administered within three days, the letter says he will seek a court injunction to force health officials to deliver it. Grey was hired by a family advocacy group that includes 39 of Maimonides' more than 300 residents.

A spokeswoman for Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé declined comment. Maimonides had no immediate comment.

The case underscores the difficulties Canada is facing in rolling out vaccines. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday said the whole nation was frustrated by how slowly provinces are vaccinating people and promised Ottawa would help speed the pace of inoculations.

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE say the vaccine requires two doses, the second three weeks after the first.

SECOND WAVE

Facing a virulent second wave, the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec decided at the end of December to administer all the doses it had on hand instead of putting aside second shots.

Ottawa has purchased almost half a million doses of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna Inc and expects another 1.2 million by the end of January. The 10 provinces are responsible for administering them.

The majority of Canada's COVID-19 deaths have been in elderly care homes, and more than 60 Maimonides residents died.

The Western province of British Columbia has also said it would administer all doses available and delay the second shot. Facing a more contagious variant, Britain is doing the same.

British Columbia said the second Pfizer shot could come as many as 35 days after the first. Quebec has not said how long the gap could be.

Canada's Chief Health Officer Theresa Tam said on Tuesday that it is important that everyone get the second shot, but conceded some flexibility could be needed.

"It comes down to vaccine management and making adjustments in the face of constrained supplies," Tam said.

Later on Wednesday, Quebec is expected to announce more health restrictions, shutting down non-essential activities in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and imposing a curfew, Radio-Canada has reported.

Quebec reported 2,641 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, and 47 deaths. Quebec so far has reported 215,358 total cases, about a third of the nationwide total.

(Reporting by Allison Lampert, additional reporting by Allison Martell, writing by Steve Scherer; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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