Is taxing the unvaccinated legal and ethical?

Across Canada, the Omicron variant is fueling rapid the spread of Covid-19 infections, increasing cases in long-term care homes and putting pressure on hospitals. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week advised Americans not to travel to Canada because of the extraordinary degree of community spread there.

Still, taxing the unvaccinated remains unconventional compared to other schemes cooked up by health officials trying to coax vaccine holdouts into booking  vaccine and booster appointments. Typically, governments have chosen to lure the hesitant with cash payments or the chance to win big in a vaccination lottery. Last August, in the two weeks following Delta Airlines’ announcement that it would soon start charging unvaccinated employees $200 per month as a health insurance surcharge, 20% of the airlines’ unvaccinated employees got their shots.

But in Quebec, this more sweeping health tax has raised concerns about social unrest in the province, where some citizens have already protested measures—like covid curfews—that have been more restrictive than those of other provinces.

Whether Quebec’s new tax would survive a legal challenge would come down to the details of the emergency measure, which are still being finalized, Carolyn Ells, a medicine and health science professor at Montreal’s McGill University, told Reuters.

Even anti-social people “have rights”

André Picard, a healthcare columnist for the Globe and Mail newspaper, immediately called the contribution fee an unfair punishment Among the 10% of unvaccinated folks in Québec, a tiny faction are the vocal anti-vaxxers who take to the streets and make deceptive claims, he noted. Others are “victims of misinformation, frightened and facing practical barriers to accessing vaccines,” while others have a “well-justified historic mistrust in the system.”

The vaccinated majority—collectively and individually—are understandably  frustrated by the unvaccinated, he wrote. However, he added, “the fact remains that people have a right to refuse vaccination. Even anti-social, obnoxious, misinformed and ignorant people have rights.”

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