Quebec’s unvaccinated need education – not a tax, advocates say

Quebec’s unvaccinated need education – not a tax, advocates say

Last year, Stella Bailakis was on a mission to vaccinate others in her neighborhood against COVID-19.

She volunteered for Parc-Extension District Table, go door-to-door to provide information and answer questions. And his efforts paid off.

“The people of this region speak different languages,” Bailakis said.

“Most of them listen to the news in their country. Once you get a chance to sit down and chat with them, their perspective really changes.”

Quebec Premier François Legault plans to impose a special tax on the unvaccinated, but his proposal raises concerns among community advocates and experts who say the government should try other methods first, especially among marginalized populations whose mistrust of authorities goes back generations.

“Before reaching the level of leveling taxes, all avenues must be exhausted in terms of educating people,” said Mark Henry, head of the Jamaican Association of Montreal.

Quebec’s black community has felt disadvantaged, ignored and unfairly treated for years and now live under a premier who refuses to recognize systemic racism in the province, Henry said.

WATCH | A behavioral medicine professor says the plan could backfire:

Health tax could encourage unvaccinated people to “dig their heels”, experts worry

Simon Bacon is professor of behavioral medicine at Concordia University in Montreal. He says the Prime Minister’s plan does little to address mistrust of government decisions. 5:18

Rather than taking away people’s right to choose, Henry said, he wants the government to provide better financial support for community organizations.

“In order for us to reach our community, which trusts us more than the government, we need additional resources,” he said.

“We need these resources to run new campaigns, hire people, go door to door.”

A further erosion of trust in government

Black Health Alliance executive director Paul Bailey said Legault’s proposed tax risked further entrenching inequalities in Canada’s pandemic response and eroding trust in government.

“We know it can further undermine public confidence in governments or just confidence in the vaccine, period,” Bailey said.

The provinces do not keep socio-economic or racial data on immunization.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched in Montreal on Saturday in defiance of public health measures. A few days later, Prime Minister François Legault announces that Quebec will tax the unvaccinated. (Graham Hughes / The Canadian Press)

However, a report by the Black Opportunity Fund, the African-Canadian Civic Engagement Council, and the Innovative Research Group found a 20-point gap between white and black Canadians who received at least one dose of the vaccine between the 18th. May and June 4, 2021, according to a survey of 2,838 respondents.

At the start of the pandemic, Montreal’s poorest and most racially diverse neighborhoods were hit hardest by COVID-19 and this problem was echoed in many North American cities.

Montreal’s public health has launched awareness campaigns, but vaccination rates have remained low in hard-hit areas and advocates have called for more accessible walk-in vaccination clinics in some neighborhoods.

“In some parts of the country, say places like Toronto and Montreal, there are particular populations – black, racialized, low and very low income – who have a high COVID burden and a lower COVID vaccination,” Bailey said. .

“We know that they are already living with the specter of poverty and many other inequalities, be it food insecurity, housing insecurity. And so for this specific population, applying a tax to them only reinforces these inequality.”

Plan to tax the unvaccinated raises ethical issues

Simon Bacon, professor of behavioral medicine at Concordia University, said government threats like these could encourage people to linger even longer.

“For those who are not vaccinated right now, the biggest issues they face are the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and those kinds of measures don’t fix that,” Bacon said.

“If you don’t fix the problem, I’m not sure you will go too far.”

Vardit Ravitsky, professor of bioethics at the University of Montreal, said the pandemic has particularly affected vulnerable and marginalized populations.

“Those who choose not to be vaccinated, it’s not a homogeneous population,” Ravitsky said. “Some have historical reasons for having this hesitation.”

Ravitsky said the government hasn’t tried enough alternatives to ethically justify a tax on the unvaccinated.

“We still haven’t put in place vaccine passports for all non-essential services,” Ravitsky said.

“When you exert pressure on a population, you want to exert that pressure in a fair way on all the population. “

Legault did not specify when the payment would go into effect or how much it would cost, but said it would be over $ 50 or $ 100. Legault said details would be revealed “in the coming weeks.”

But for some, $ 100 is food on the table, Ravitsky said, and that’s why the government can’t just charge a flat fee.

“Choosing a measure that applies very different types of pressure to different families is not the ideal choice at this point,” she said.

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