The government of Quebec has told the province’s healthcare network to prepare for yet another wave of COVID-19 cases, as well as a campaign to encourage fourth injections of the vaccine.
Radio Canada reported that the directive came from the province’s public health director Dr. Luc Boileau, who made the proclamation due to a rise in cases caused by the BA.2 Omicron subvariant.
Quebec reported 2111 confirmed cases of COVID-19 via PCR tests on Wednesday, making it the first time since mid-February that the province reported over 2000 daily cases.
It should be noted that the province also reported a drop in hospitalizations.
The government of Quebec has confirmed its intention to launch a fourth-dose vaccination campaign next week.
Vulnerable people will be eligible to receive their fourth vaccine dose three months after they had their third. These include the immunocompromised, those living in long-term care and retirement homes and individuals over the age of 80.
Quebec is one of only a few jurisdictions in North America that still requires people to wear masks in indoor public spaces. The province says it is opting to maintain the measure for the time being.
“Quebec has always been very cautious in its decision making, I think,” said Boileau. “And with what’s happening in Europe, and with the data we have here, we now want that caution.”
However, the urgency with which the Quebec government is rushing to offer fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccines does not resonate with everyone in the province’s medical community.
Dr. Karl Weiss, a professor of medicine at McGill University as well as a physician, microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at the Montreal Jewish Hospital, has expressed doubts about the immediacy of the campaign.
Weiss told Radio Canada that he “would try to wait until the fall.” He also said that there is a lack of data showing the effectiveness of fourth vaccine doses.
While Weiss believes a fourth dose may help, he thinks that at some point people will have to ask themselves, “are we going to give a fourth, fifth, sixth dose…?”
The Quebec government’s plans also received criticism from provincial Conservative leader Eric Duhaime, who called it a fear campaign.
Duhaime also warned that the re-election of Quebec premier Francois Legault’s party would lead to mandatory third and fourth doses, as well as the return of the province’s vaccine passport system.
As of now, the province does not plan to reinstate the restrictions that it previously lifted. These include capacity and gathering limits, as well as the vaccine passport.
During the last two years of the pandemic, Quebec imposed some of the harshest measures in the Western world. This included a strict, police-enforced curfew, lockdowns, the closure of places of worship and bans on private gatherings. Recent lockdowns came despite the province having a high vaccination rate.
Quebec also banned the unvaccinated from big box stores including Walmart and Costco, and considered making vaccination mandatory under the threat of “significant” fees.
The Legault government has also been accused on multiple occasions of introducing restrictions that were not backed by science.