Quebec, Canada’s second most populous province, is planning to force adults refusing to get COVID-19 vaccinations to pay a “health contribution” in a move likely to spur a debate about individual rights and social responsibility.
Premier Francois Legault told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday that the proposal, the details of which were still being finalised, would not apply to those who could not get vaccinated for medical reasons.
Mr Legault said unvaccinated people put a financial burden on others and the provincial finance ministry was determining a “significant” amount that unvaccinated residents would be required to pay, adding that such an amount would not be less than $C100 ($110).
Governments globally have imposed movement restrictions on the unvaccinated, but a sweeping tax on all unvaccinated adults could be a rare and controversial move.
McGill University medicine and health sciences professor Carolyn Ells said whether the levy survived a court challenge would depend on the details.
But Ms Ells expressed surprise that the government was taking such a “dramatic” step now, when options such as further expanding vaccine mandates remained.
Provinces across Canada are tackling an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases that has forced tens of thousands of people into isolation and burdened the healthcare sector.
The highly transmissible Omicron variant has made it difficult for restrictive measures to curb the spread, and health experts have stressed the importance of getting double and tripled vaccinated.
Quebec has been one of the worst-hit Canadian provinces, regularly recording the highest daily count of coronavirus cases of all provinces and having several thousand healthcare workers off their jobs.
Mr Legault said that even though about 10% of the province’s population was unvaccinated, those people accounted for about 50% of patients in intensive care units. Mr Legault and his CAQ party face a provincial election in October.
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government had secured enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for all eligible Canadians to receive a booster as well as a fourth dose.
Last month, Quebec said it had “no choice” but to allow some essential workers to continue working even after testing positive for COVID-19 to prevent staff shortages from impeding its healthcare services. It has also imposed curbs on gatherings.
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Nina Alvarez is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel. Her interests include writing, particularly about the healthcare sector and the many ways it can improve to further benefit people from all walks of life.