Northern Quebec begins general vaccination campaign

As of Thursday, most residents ages 40 and above have received the first dose of the vaccine or will do so in the coming days.

A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine.

CHIBOUGAMAU — The Nord-du-Québec region became one of the first Thursday to undertake a campaign to vaccinate the general population against COVID-19.

As of Thursday, most residents ages 40 and above have received the first dose of the vaccine or will do so in the coming days.

The health region, from the 49th to 55th parallel from James Bay to Chibougamau and Mistissini, has been relatively spared from the pandemic so far. But it was given the fourth-highest priority for vaccination because of how isolated and far its communities are.

Nathalie Boisvert, general manager of the Centre régional de santé et de services sociaux de la Baie-James, said health care was already a logistical challenge before COVID-19. “For more serious cases, like strokes, our residents have to travel several kilometres toward a health centre, to often get transferred to an institution in the south of the province,” she said. “All this brings additional pressure and worries with COVID-19. That’s why our vaccination was a priority.”

Like the rest of the province, the Nord-du-Québec had outbreaks. Last November, 146 people had to isolate after going to a bowling alley in Chibougamau. There were also two outbreaks in seniors’ residences during the holidays.

“Our public health team did a formidable job,” Boisvert said. “They worked hard to do preventive testing.”

Another challenge: Cree and non-Cree populations that interact on the territory but are not managed by the same organizations. The Cree Health Board has jurisdiction over its populations, but the virus doesn’t discriminate.

“We have constant discussions with the Cree Health Board,” Boisvert said. “We’re conscious that the virus is circulating among the two populations, and we have to work together to keep outbreaks under control.”

Every Thursday, representatives of the two organizations sit with political representatives to get an update on the situation, and there’s cooperation on a daily basis.

“During the bowling outbreak, the CHB loaned us two nurses to help with testing,” Boisvert said. “Recently, we found several COVID-19 cases in the community of Oujé-Bougoumou, and in Mistissini. Four of our nurses went to help there.”

After ages 40+, remaining adults 18 and over will be vaccinated at the beginning of February.

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