Canada began administering doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, with elderly people and front-line workers among the first to receive shots.
In Quebec, 89-year-old Gisèle Lévesque, a resident of the Saint-Antoine nursing home in Quebec City, became the first person in the province hit hardest by the pandemic to receive a vaccine, at around 11:30 a.m.
Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu appeared outside the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Montreal in the afternoon, with newly vaccinated 78-year-old Gloria Lallouz.
“I felt emotional because I know how worried and anxious families and health care workers are all across the country,” Hajdu said. “I see this as the first step forward into the light, and moving back into a place of confidence where Canadians can start to see the beginning of the end of this thing.”
Canada joins the United Kingdom and the United States as the first Western countries to give citizens the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, as the coronavirus pandemic rages toward winter.
Each of Canada’s provinces has identified its own priority groups for vaccination.
In Toronto, spectators in scrubs and lab coats applauded as Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker at Toronto’s Rekai Centre nursing home, received the first vaccine administered in Ontario.
Together, Quebec and Ontario have seen more than 85% of the 13,341 COVID-linked deaths in Canada since the spring. The country has reported more than 460,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
The federal minister for public services and procurement, Anita Anand, said Monday that Canada is on track to receive up to 249,000 doses by the end of the year, toward vaccinating a population of 37 million people. Inoculation takes two doses, delivered 21 days apart.
“We are dealing with an incredibly competitive global environment,” Anand said. “It’s very much the long game here.”
Canada is also reviewing data on the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Moderna for possible authorization and has contracts with other companies developing their own vaccine candidates but no domestic production.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that the majority of Canadians could receive vaccinations by September.