Gisele Levesque is seen in an undated handout photo. Quebec City’s health agency says Levesque, a resident at the CHSLD Saint-Antoine senior’s home, is first up for vaccination in the provincial capital. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-National Capital Integrated University Centre of Health and Social Services

Gisele Levesque is seen in an undated handout photo. Quebec City’s health agency says Levesque, a resident at the CHSLD Saint-Antoine senior’s home, is first up for vaccination in the provincial capital. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-National Capital Integrated University Centre of Health and Social Services

‘It’s a miracle’: First COVID-19 vaccine shipments arriving today, more en route

MONTREAL — Beverly Spanier says it’s a miracle.

The 75-year-old resident of Maimonides Geriatric Centre will be among the first in Canada to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which could be administered as early as Monday at the Montreal long-term care home.

“We’re celebrating Hanukkah, which is a time of miracles. It’s absolutely a miracle that we’re about to receive this vaccine so quickly,” Spanier, who is paralyzed from the waist down, said in an interview Sunday.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said some of the 30,000 initial doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will begin to touch down for transport to 14 distribution sites across the country Sunday night, with more crossing the border via plane and truck on Monday.

Front-line health-care workers and long-term care residents will be among the first to be inoculated.

Maimonides is one of two long-term care facilities in Quebec that will receive the first doses of the vaccine. The other is Saint-Antoine in Quebec City, where public health officials said resident Gisele Levesque would be the first to be vaccinated.

Her nieces, in a press release, said Levesque, who moved into the facility just as the pandemic broke out in March, was calm and direct about being No. 1 on the list, saying simply, ‘I was chosen, of course.’”

News of the vaccines’ imminent arrival came as Quebec and Ontario report a combined 3,671 new cases of COVID-19 and 49 additional deaths linked to the virus.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, while New Brunswick added two more infections to bring its total to 65 active cases.

New Brunswick health officials confirmed the first COVID-19 vaccine clinics in the province would be held at the Miramichi Hospital on Dec. 19 and 20.

The province is getting 1,950 doses in the first shipment, and the initial recipients will get their required second shot of vaccine on Jan. 9 and 10.

Back in Quebec, Francine Dupuis, associate CEO of the Montreal regional health agency, said she expects to receive two boxes each containing 975 doses of the vaccine.

She said teams of health-care workers have been ready to administer the vaccines since Friday, but that they don’t know when the shipments will arrive exactly.

“It’s a well-kept secret,” Dupuis said in an interview Sunday morning. “No one knows right now.”

About 90 to 95 percent of eligible Maimonides residents have accepted to take the vaccine, she said. That means between 300 and 350 residents will be inoculated.

Health-care workers at Maimonides will be vaccinated next, and then the remaining doses will go to health-care workers at other long-term care homes, Dupuis said.

She said none of the initial doses would be set aside, as more shipments are expected to arrive to ensure people get their required second shot 21 days later.

“The important thing to remember is that we can’t lose doses,” Dupuis said. “We need to have a scenario where there are enough people who will come so that all the doses are used.”

Spanier said while she is extremely grateful to be receiving the vaccine, she is well aware of the toll COVID-19 has taken on those around her.

“It’s not a time for happy partying because we’re getting this vaccine,” she said on Sunday.

“It’s a time to remember: remember what this means, remember the losses that we had, remember that we want to protect every other person we can protect from getting this disease.”

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