QUEBEC – It’s not unrealistic to think all health care workers can be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1, Premier François Legault said Wednesday, noting all MNAs in his caucus have been double jabbed to set an example.
“I think people need to understand we need to put safety ahead of everything else,” Legault said, as he arrived for a meeting of the Quebec cabinet. It is the first cabinet meeting since March 2020 where ministers are physically present around the big table in the Honoré Mercier building.
“Ninety per cent of employees are already vaccinated. If there are people who understand the importance of being double vaccinated, it is health employees.
“And by the way I am very proud to tell you all the CAQ’s MNAs have received their two doses of vaccine. I think they must also be models to convince the 15 per cent of Quebecers who have not yet gone to get their first dose.”
The CAQ caucus in the legislature is composed of 75 MNAs, including Legault.
Legault made the remarks one day after announcing that all of Quebec’s health workers, public and private, will be obliged to get vaccinated by Oct. 1 or risk not being allowed to work.
A legislative committee will be organized for next week to discuss the details of how the policy will be implemented, given that it intrudes on workers’ personal freedoms.
Some workers have expressed reluctance, noting that keeping unvaccinated employees off the job will hurt a system already strapped for personnel.
On Wednesday, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) issued a message strongly urging its members to be vaccinated.
It is estimated that about 10 per cent of Quebec health-care workers regularly dealing with patients — about 50,000 people — are not vaccinated.
Legault responded by saying Quebec in the last year has added 10,000 more personal care workers to the system and increased their salaries.
“I think we did what we had to do,” Legault said.
He also defended the news that Quebec’s vaccination targets are being increased by public health, from the goal of 75 per cent of the population vaccinated to 90 per cent and up.
“The Delta variant made it such that we have to revise the target,” Legault said. “It’s not only like this in Quebec. It’s like this all over the world.”
At a pandemic news conference Tuesday, Horacio Arruda, the director of public health, revised the number upwards in one sentence.
“For me my magic number is above 90 per cent,” Arruda said. “Ideally, 95 per cent would be even better, but over 90 per cent.”
And in another sign the government is worried about the rise of the Delta variant, Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx Wednesday announced that two test concerts, one on the Plains of Abraham and another indoors, scheduled for this fall are being cancelled.