Canada’s First Vaccine Recipient Dies

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A vaccination depot at Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Center in Montreal, Quebec on December 14, 2020. Canada’s first vaccine recipient, Gisele Levesque, 89, has passed away. Public health officials say the cause of death was natural causes unrelated to COVID-19.
A vaccination depot at Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Center in Montreal, Quebec on December 14, 2020. Canada’s first vaccine recipient, Gisele Levesque, 89, has passed away. Public health officials say the cause of death was natural causes unrelated to COVID-19. (Image: ANDREJ IVANOV/AFP via Getty Images)

A Quebec woman who made headlines after being the first person in Canada to accept an inoculation for the prevention of COVID-19 has passed away. 

Gisele Levesque, an 89-year old woman living in Quebec City was praised by Canadian media in December after making history by becoming the first Canadian to receive a SARS-COV-2 vaccine. Articles described the day as “V-Day,” a play on “D-Day,” the historic World War II Normandy landings, the largest seaborne invasion in history that led to the liberation of France from Hitler’s control.

Montreal’s CTV News called the day the “first ray of sun in a long time,” as residents and staff of two of Quebec’s long-term care homes received the first batches of Pfizer-BioNTech injections. 

Although Levesque’s injection was videotaped by CTV as part of a series of vaccine acceptance articles, she did not appear to speak to reporters. Her niece, Justine, told CTV “We are very proud and very happy for our aunt Gisèle…Today, it’s our turn to take care of her and we are happy for her that she live through this important time.”

The Canadian Press reported on July 4 that Levesque had “died peacefully of natural causes last Monday, surrounded by family, according to the public health authority in Quebec City.”

The article was quick to point out “The health authority said her death was not related to COVID-19.”

The woman, a retired National Bank employee, never married and had no children. Levesque was placed in the long-term care facility around the same time as when the pandemic first emerged in Canada in March of 2020. She was survived by her siblings and nieces and nephews. 

According to the Government of Canada, almost 35 million vaccine doses have been administered to Canada’s population of 37.59 million citizens. Only 8,570 reported adverse reactions have been registered with the Government’s Health Infobase system, and only 1,884 are considered serious. 

According to Health Infobase data, the majority of adverse reactions have been attributed to the Pfizer-BioNTech injection at 4,735. Moderna came in second at 2,585.

Adverse vaccine reactions reported in Canada, sorted by brand.
Adverse vaccine reactions reported in Canada, sorted by brand. (Image: Government of Canada Health Infobase)

Only 123 deaths have been reported.

By comparison in the United States, according to OpenVAERS, 411,931 adverse reactions have been reported, comprising 6,985 deaths and 23,257 hospitalizations. Additionally, 2,081 cases of Bell’s Palsy were reported. According to Our World in Data, slightly more than 330 million injections have been distributed in the U.S.

In April, Lytton, BC family doctor Charles Hoffe went public with concerns he had after ten patients in his mostly First Nations community suffered severe adverse reactions after receiving the Moderna variant of the vaccine. According to Hoffe, the most serious case was a 38-year-old woman who developed a severe and painful Bell’s Palsy in addition to debilitating vertigo. The woman was no longer able to work as a result of her symptoms, which did not abate. 

Hoffe said he attempted to find help for his patients, but nobody at the specialist institutions in Vancouver wanted to touch a case involving potential vaccine side effects.

The doctor also said the government-appointed vaccine specialist his case was referred to explained away his patient’s symptoms as “These are all coincidences. These are nothing to do with the vaccine. These were just going to happen. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Just like people can have blood clots, people die, people get Bell’s Palsy.

In May, Hoffe was banned from the community public health facility where he has served Lytton for 28 years for allegedly promoting vaccine hesitancy.

At the end of June, Lytton experienced an unprecedented heatwave as a result of a high-pressure dome positioned over Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, setting a new Canadian high of 47.9 C (118.2 F), exceeding the hottest temperature ever recorded in Las Vegas at 47.2 C. 

The previous record for Lytton was 39.9 C (103.82 F) set in 2006. 

The village caught fire and the majority of it burned to the ground. Several residents are reported as missing according to reports by The Canadian Press with two confirmed dead.

  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.