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Unvaccinated Quebec residents will soon have to pay a health tax

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian province of Quebec has seen the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in Canada. As 2022 begins, the province is currently struggling with a surge in new cases. In order to tackle it, Quebec Premier François Legault announced on Tuesday 11 January that it would be the first in the nation to financially penalise unvaccinated citizens.

On that same day, Quebec’s death toll from COVID-19 reached 12,028. This comes after 62 deaths were recorded in the previous 24-hour period. The daily figure represents a similar rate to January 2021, before widespread vaccinations had begun in the province.

According to the BBC, “only about 12.8 per cent of Quebec residents are not vaccinated” but they make up nearly half of all hospital cases. And as reported in new federal data, just over 85 per cent of Quebec residents had received at least one vaccine dose by 1 January.

Premier Legault said during a news conference that people who have not received their first dose of vaccine will have to pay a “contribution.” Although the fee has not yet been decided upon, it will be “significant,” he added.

“I think right now it’s a question of fairness for the 90 per cent of the population who made some sacrifices,” Premier Legault explained. “I think we owe them this kind of measure.”

The move follows the abrupt resignation of a senior health official in the province, amid mounting anger over new lockdown measures, hospitals at capacity and the slow rollout of vaccine boosters. Doctor Horacio Arruda served in the role for 12 years and was reappointed to another three-year term in June 2020, but has faced an onslaught of criticism in recent weeks. “Recent comments about the credibility of our opinions and our scientific rigour are undoubtedly causing some erosion of public support,” wrote Doctor Arruda in his resignation.

Doctor Arruda faced particular condemnation for allowing care home staff to move between sites during the first wave of the pandemic. Most recently, he was faulted for his dismissal of the benefits of N95 masks, saying they were not necessary for teachers or healthcare workers.

While other provinces have accelerated the rollout of booster shots to fight the contagious Omicron variant, Quebec has only recently opened access to residents 40 years of age and above. In Ontario, residents over 18 have been able to access the booster since mid-December 2021.

On the first week of January 2022, the province had already announced that it would require proof of vaccination from people wanting to shop in government cannabis and liquor stores. A curfew has also been implemented, the second one of the pandemic, running from 10 pm to 5 am each day.

The percentage of COVID-19 patients in intensive care who have not been vaccinated is 45 per cent, provincial data shows. Meanwhile, hospitals in Montreal, the province’s largest city, are nearing 100 per cent capacity and have already started limiting non-COVID related care.

While rare as of now, Quebec is not the only region in the world seeking to impose a financial penalty on those unwilling to get jabbed. Starting later in January, Greek citizens over the age of 60 will be required to pay a €100 (£85) fine for each month that they remain unvaccinated. Singapore has also required COVID-19 patients to pay for their own medical bills if they are not vaccinated.

Anti-vaxxers need to be called out for their movement to be stopped

Anti-vaxxers, also known as people who are opposed to vaccination, typically a parent who refuses to vaccinate their child, must be stopped. The anti-vaccination movement, which continues to grow, is a main source of worry for scientists who are sure vaccines work, but it should also be one for the rest of us. Measles (among other diseases) is on the rise once again, and reviews found that there is a correlation between the two problems. Here’s what is wrong with anti-vaxxers and what needs to be done.

The anti-vaccination movement comes from the idea that there’s a connection between vaccination and autism, as well as other brain disorders. This idea rests upon no scientific evidence, but as you’ve probably realised by now, the same can be said about many other beliefs in our increasingly disbelieving world.

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Measles is a disease more contagious than Tuberculosis or Ebola, yet it is easily preventable with a vaccine that barely costs anything. When measles was declared to be eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, everyone thought—rightly so—that it was thanks to vaccines. And yet here we are, in 2019, with parents knowingly withholding their children from something that could save them from potential brain damage and death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2018 measles cases in the U.S. went up six-fold while they tripled across Europe.

The situation is so bad that even Trump, who only a year ago ‘flirted’ with notorious anti-vaxxers and repeatedly linked vaccinations to autism, declared that people “have to get their shots”. In other words, if even Trump takes these outbreaks seriously, this is not something to disregard. This entirely preventable emergency that started in March this year should be a lesson to everyone about how unfortunate a world without vaccines would be.

A few months after the outbreak, anti-vaxxers are still going strong, lowering herd immunity quickly. In the U.K., Prince Charles’ mission to save homeopathy is reenforcing the public’s distrust in medical science. How? By promoting homeopathy as a miracle remedy, one that hasn’t been provided by the NHS since 2017 and has been described by its chief executive Simon Stevens as “at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds”.

The anti-vaccination movement comes exactly from the growing public distrust of vaccines, but also in science, in the government, and in the pharmaceutical industry more broadly. So what can we do, really, apart from making vaccines mandatory for everyone? Tackling fake news and misinformation, especially fake medical news on social media, would be a first step.

In March 2016, even Robert De Niro dabbled in this affair by promoting the anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe and pushing for the film to be featured in the Tribeca Film Festival. A few days after, De Niro decided not to include the film, most likely realising the larger-scale impact that this could have on the country’s already declining health.

Lastly, it shouldn’t be forgotten that more people are involved in the whole vaccination drama and therefore should be held accountable. Health professionals have to take accountability or be made to do so in this matter as well. We need to ensure that doctors giving shots are equipped with concrete information and available to talk to those who have concerns, so that parents can feel like they’re making well-informed decisions.

Conspiracy theories are fine and should be left alone to thrive on Reddit as long as they’re not hurting people in the process. People that don’t make the effort to promote vaccination are unknowingly allowing anti-vaxxers to do their damage. Anti-vaxxers should be called out—by the government, by doctors, by you, me—so that putting kids’ vaccination ‘on hold’ becomes shocking and taboo again. It’s a matter of life and death.