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People wait to be tested for COVID-19 at a clinic in Montreal, on Jan. 31, 2021.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Quebec’s health minister says the province remains on track to administer a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine within the 90-day time frame recommended by public health authorities.

Christian Dube told a legislative committee on health care Friday that given the problems with vaccine supply, he is glad health officials recommended delaying the second of two required doses.

“With the problems we had with vaccine delivery, I don’t think anyone contests that choice and the decision,” Dube said. “We will respect this engagement to give the second dose within the delay public health has prescribed.”

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Liberal health critic Marie Montpetit raised the vaccine-delay issue, noting it was 61 days since the province’s inoculation campaign started on Dec. 14.

In January, Quebec announced it would wait up to 90 days before giving a COVID-19 vaccine booster to people who had received a first shot, in order to maximize the number of residents getting at least one vaccination.

The delay went beyond recommendations of vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna – creators of the only two vaccines so far approved by Health Canada – which proposed intervals of 21 and 28 days, respectively. Quebec’s plan was also more than double the 42-day maximum delay proposed by Canada’s national vaccine advisory committee.

Dube said authorities are keeping tabs on those who got a first dose to ensure they’re doing well.

The province administered 7,927 doses of COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, for a total of 280,612, which represents about 2.9 per cent of Quebec’s population. The province has so far received slightly more than 310,000 doses.

Dube said he was hesitant to promise a firm vaccination schedule because of the uncertainty around supply. On Friday, the Trudeau government said Canada is expected to receive 84 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of September.

Quebec’s plan to vaccinate seniors living in private residences has been disrupted by the shipment slowdown. Dube said he would like to be able to tell those groups when they’ll be vaccinated but can’t.

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“We won’t make promises we can’t keep,” Dube said.

Earlier Friday, Montreal surpassed 100,000 reported COVID-19 infections, but hospitalizations across the province continued their downward trend, dropping 25, to 849. There were also six fewer patients in intensive care, for a total of 137. Hospitalizations have fallen by 120 over the past four reporting periods.

Health officials reported 984 new COVID-19 cases and 25 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including four in the past 24 hours. They said Quebec had 10,657 active reported cases.

Montreal remained the region with the most new, daily reported infections in Quebec, with 432 cases reported Friday, for a total of 100,203. The city has recorded 4,434 deaths linked to the virus.

Dube said authorities remain concerned about three variants of the virus, two of which have been detected in Quebec so far.

Dube has said the province will ramp up screening positive cases in Montreal for variants next week. He has also said health officials will allocate more vaccine resources to Montreal and that the premier is considering imposing more restrictions for Quebec’s spring break week, which begins March 1.

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Quebec has reported a total of 274,831 infections and 10,173 deaths linked to the virus.

Canada's chief public health officer says that while there has been recent progress on bringing down the number of new COVID-19 cases, loosening restrictions must be done with caution and that provinces must be ready to reapply them quickly if things start to get worse, especially with the new variants. The Canadian Press

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