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B.C. not pursuing mandatory vaccinations after Quebec introduces unvaxxed tax, say officials

Decision comes amid record surge of COVID-19 cases
| Photo: Vancouver Coastal Health

Don’t expect the West Coast to follow suit with Quebec’s efforts to impose a tax on residents who refuse a COVID-19 vaccination.

“I don’t foresee making it mandatory for vaccinations for everybody in the province,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a Tuesday briefing.

Health Minister Adrian Dix echoed those sentiments during the same briefing: “We’re not planning a similar measure.”

Quebec Premier François Legault announced Tuesday afternoon a "health contribution" will be charged to adults who choose not to get vaccinated amid surging caseloads in his province.

This comes as the highly transmissible Omicron variant has brought on record numbers of COVID-19 cases across Canada.

“I think we have a very strong support for [voluntary] vaccinations,” Henry said. 

“It is really important in specific professional settings, and we've mandated them in some and I know many other sectors have stood up to make sure that all of their workers are protected as well.”

The number of British Columbians with serious enough COVID-19 infections to need hospital care has soared 95.9% as of the first 10 days of 2022 — the highest level seen since November 5.

B.C. has 431 such patients, including 95 whose conditions are bad enough to need care in intensive care units. B.C.'s record for most COVID-19 hospitalizations at one time was set April 28, when 515 COVID-19 patients were fighting for their lives in B.C. hospitals.

“This strain of the virus is absolutely mostly mild in people who have the protection that vaccination offers,” Henry said.

She acknowledging the number of vaccinated people ending up in hospital has been increasing amid this fourth wave.

“But we have to remember that is because the vast majority of people are vaccinated,” Henry said.

Meanwhile, B.C. is set to administer its 10 millionth COVID-19 vaccine dose by week’s end as efforts to deliver boosters ramp up as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the province.

That figure, provided by Dix, includes first, second and booster doses for the five million people residing in the province.

After some vaccine clinics either closed down for the holidays or eased off administering jabs, the province’s booster campaign has been accelerating since the start of the year.

Dix said 870,000 British Columbians have received invites since December 31 for a total of about two million invites since October 27. Overall, 52.7% of B.C.’s eligible has received invites for boosters.

But a sizeable gap between those who’ve received invites and those who’ve received jabs still persists. Out of the two million to receive invites, so far 1.24 million have in turn gotten their boosters.

Dix said there are 445,000 appointments open in B.C. as of Tuesday, while 64,000 bookings were made in the last 24 hours.

Those who have already booked their appointment are able to go online to see if they are able to move up their booking.

More than 700 pharmacies are involved with administering COVID-19 vaccines, while a total of 1,000 are expected to serve as vaccination sites by the end of the month.

—With files from Glen Korstrom

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