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COVID-19: Montreal says city on track with vaccination strategy, cautions more work ahead

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Thirty per cent of the Montreal population has received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, public health confirmed on Wednesday, as the city said it was on track with its immunization campaign.

Health officials say over 75 per cent of people aged 60 or older in the city have responded to the call to get their first shot against the novel coronavirus as Montreal public health said the vaccine rollout in the city is ramping up and moving rapidly.

However, the city’s public health director, Dr. Mylene Drouin, said there’s still a way to go before the city can reach herd immunity and envision fully opening back up.

Drouin said it will take at least 75 per cent of the population to have received both doses of the vaccine to reach herd immunity. Due to the infectious strength and transmission rate of the variants, that number can be pushed up to about 80 per cent.

The public health director added that the city will continue its immunization focus on lower socioeconomic status areas of the city where transmission rates are higher.

Read more: Family of Quebec woman who died of blood clot after AstraZeneca vaccine urges vigilance

Sixty-five per cent of all new infections in Montreal are detected as variant strains. Of those, 95 per cent are the B.1.1.7 variant, first reported in the U.K.. A small number of B.1.1.28 (Brazil), B.1.351 (South Africa) and California variants have been detected, but public health said they have all been well contained and haven’t lead to any major outbreaks.

Two cases of the B.1.617 variant, first detected in India, were reported, but officials said both people isolated and their infection didn’t lead to secondary transmission.

Drouin added that it will be up to the Quebec government to dictate what and when things can open back up in Montreal as the immunity strategy continues “in the right direction,” Drouin said.

The city’s hospitalization trends are also heading in the right direction, officials said, saying there are currently 219 people in hospital due to COVID-19 in the metropolis — “which was once the pandemic’s epicentre in the country,” said Drouin.

She added that that number fares well in comparison to the some 900 COVID-19 hospitalizations the city was grappling with at the height of its second wave.

Read more: Health Canada stands behind AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot after 1st blood clot death reported

Health officials said the city has so far not dealt with any major outbreaks or super spreader events, indicating that its restrictive health measures are working.

St. Mary’s Hospital, however, reported that 14 of its ER staff members — who have mostly all received their first vaccine dose — have been re-infected with the virus, raising the issue about the province’s choice to postpone second dose appointments for health-care workers in the province.

Quebec reported 1,094 new cases on Wednesday and 12 more deaths. Of the new cases, only 294 were reported in Montreal.

Quebec’s vaccination campaign saw another 50,312 shots given in the last 24 hours, for more than 2.9 million to date.

Click to play video: BioNTech CEO says he expects Europe to reach herd immunity this summer

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