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News ᑎᐹᒋᒧᐧᐃᓐ

Quebec approves vaccines for teenagers

BY Ben Powless May 22, 2021

Quebec has approved the Pfizer vaccine for youth aged 12-17, saying that a first dose would be available for all children by the end of June. A second vaccination could be available by the start of classes in the fall. 

Speaking for the Cree Health Board, Corrinne Smith said the CHB still had no information about exact dates and availability, though they expected to soon be able to announce a schedule. Still, Smith signalled that it was a “welcome development” and that they may partner with the Cree School Board (CSB) to administer the vaccine. 

While the Pfizer vaccine requires storage of around -70°C, which is not possible in many communities, the company offers thermally controlled shipping containers that can store the vaccine up to 30 days with dry ice, with another five days of storage possible in standard refrigeration temperatures.

The Moderna vaccine was initially chosen for more remote regions, including Eeyou Istchee, because it could be stored in regular refrigeration. 

The remaining three vaccines approved for use in Canada are only available to those over 18. Legally, youth 14 and older are able to get the vaccine without parental permission, while those 13 and younger require parental consent. 

Covid cases were down 8% across Canada in early May, with a 12% drop in Quebec. Numbers remained high in Ontario, which was under provincial shutdown measures. Public health officials urged governments to maintain lockdown measures until infection rates and hospitalizations decreased, and more people were vaccinated.

The CHB removed mandatory self-isolation measures for those visiting Region 8 (Abitibi-Témiscamingue) and is allowing necessary travel to Regions 10 (Nord-du-Québec), 17 (Nunavik) and 18 (Eeyou Istchee). In six of the nine Cree communities, the 14-day isolation period will be replaced with a seven-day period for those who had received both vaccine doses, and 10 days for everyone else. All Cree communities remained in Phase 4 of deconfinement.

Approximately 87% of those currently eligible had received their first vaccine dose, with 62% having received both doses. Cree beneficiaries in Outaouais, Estrie, Abitibi and Montreal are will eligible to receive vaccines locally. 

Those who received their first dose in Eeyou Istchee but who are outside the territories more than 112 days after the vaccination are encouraged to call Services Québec at 1-877-644-4545 with their RAMQ card to receive an appointment for a second shot. 

The CSB and CHB released Covid School Kits for students in high school and Grades 5 and 6, which include a reminder of safety measures, a fridge magnet with important phone numbers, and two 3-ply masks. 

Nationally, Canada reached 1.29 million cases, and 24,861 deaths, with 16.5 million people receiving their first vaccination, and 1.1 million fully vaccinated. 

Quebec announced that it would be providing an electronic proof of vaccination as international debate intensifies over “vaccine passports,” which would allow fully vaccinated individuals more access to travel, or even for entry to restaurants, businesses and events. 

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.