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Opinion: Taxing the unvaxxed isn’t right

What would come next? Extra taxes on patients who present to hospitals with lung cancer if they smoke? Or taxes on the overweight with heart disease?
Francois Legault
Quebec Premier Francois Legault / Canadian Press

Well, Premier Francois Legault finally got fed up and took the plunge.

On Jan. 11, the Quebec premier said the province would be introducing a tax on the unvaccinated who are receiving medical care. The money would be “substantial” – more than $100 we were told.

With the announcement, the Twitterverse exploded with everything from praise for the proposal to eternal damnation for the premier and his party. And I must admit, I did have a bit of twinge and thought “about damn time.” But it only lasted a moment or two.

It does sound like a good idea at first blush. After all, the unvaccinated are consuming ICU beds in hospitals which would normally see patients dying from cancer or suffering from a heart attack, not someone who chose to avoid taking a simple, safe preventative measure against a deadly respiratory illness. If the unvaccinated want to turn their back on modern medicinal practices, then why, when they get sick, do they turn to modern medicine to save them?

But that isn’t really the issue. It is neither a fair nor compassionate point of view. There are many reasons some may not want to be vaccinated. And some are even reasonable even though the evidence in favour of vaccination is overwhelming. For example, vaccination during pregnancy reduces the risk of dying by 15 times and the likelihood of premature birth by 22 times.

No. A tax is not the solution. Indeed, it is the first step down a very slippery slope. What would come next? Extra taxes on patients who present to hospitals with lung cancer if they smoke? Or taxes on the overweight with heart disease?

No. We have committed our country to universal medical care which is both cheaper and more effective than the for-profit systems operating south of the border. Charging ill patients for past behaviour is not part of our healthcare picture.

So it should not be part of the picture with COVID. The unvaccinated deserve care free from any additional fees. Getting COVID will already cost them enough even if it doesn’t cost them their life.

Instead, we really do need to think about how we educate about science and critical thinking. Better understanding will arm our children against future pandemics.

Todd Whitcombe is a chemistry professor at UNBC.

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