Trudeau not ready to endorse Quebec’s plan to tax the unvaccinated

PM Justin Trudeau-Milenio Stadium-Canada
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen in Ottawa on Dec. 13. He reiterated his opposition to Bill 21 that day. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he needs to know more about Quebec’s plan to impose some sort of levy on the unvaccinated before he can decide whether to support the idea.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Parliament Hill, Trudeau said the federal government has tried to encourage the unvaccinated to get the shot with travel restrictions and vaccine mandates — but a health care tax like the one proposed by Quebec is a novel concept that needs further study.

While the details at this stage are sketchy, Quebec Premier François Legault said Tuesday the province will impose a health tax on Quebecers who refuse to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks.

Legault did not say when the tax would take effect or how much it would cost the average person. He did say he wanted the cost to be “significant” — more than $50 or $100 — in order to encourage the unvaccinated to get at least one dose.

Trudeau said any tax or charge must comply with the Canada Health Act — federal legislation that guarantees universal access to health care.

“Details matter. We need to know exactly what measures they’re putting forward. We need to know the terms and conditions so we can know if it’ll be effective,” he said. “We’ll be looking at the details to see how exactly this will transpire.”

To help in the fight against the Omicron variant, the federal government is planning to deliver about 16.1 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses to the provinces and territories this month.

While early data suggest current vaccines are less effective in preventing an Omicron infection, those who are vaccinated are far less likely to experience severe outcomes — such as hospitalization and death.

In Ontario, for example, fewer than nine per cent of those 12 and over are unvaccinated — but people without two doses of an mRNA vaccine account for half of all ICU admissions.

An additional 9.3 million doses of the Moderna Spikevax vaccine and 6.8 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty adult/adolescent formulation will arrive in Canada this month, according to data supplied by Health Canada. Last week, 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived, with another 6.3 million to follow this month.

After these deliveries, there will be enough supply to offer boosters to all eligible Canadians while continuing to ensure that vaccines are available for those who have not yet received their first or second doses, a spokesperson for the department said.

Provinces and territories now have on hand 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer product and more than 9 million doses of Moderna’s Spikevax.

Based on National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendations, provinces and territories are earmarking some of the Pfizer supply for 12 to 29 year olds due to concerns about elevated rates of myocarditis observed with the use of Moderna’s Spikevax vaccine in this age group.

NACI has urged provinces to be “prudent” about using Pfizer in people aged 30 and over to “ensure timely and equitable access” for the younger cohort, the Health Canada spokesperson said.


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