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Quebec, Canada, reports increase in COVID-19 shots after proposing tax on unvaccinated

Quebec, Canada, reports increase in COVID-19 shots after proposing tax on unvaccinated
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said the province has seen an "encouraging" increase in vaccinations after proposing a financial penalty for those who refuse to get vaccinated. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Quebec's health minister said the Canadian province has seen an increase in vaccinations after it proposed a fine for unvaccinated individuals earlier this week.

In a tweet on Wednesday morning, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said the province recorded 7,000 new first-dose appointments and administered 107,000 doses on Tuesday when the potential financial penalty was announced.

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"It's encouraging!" Dube wrote.

On Tuesday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said that the province would impose a health tax on residents who refuse to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks.

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Legault did not specify exactly when the tax would go into effect or how large the fine would be but said he wanted the cost to be "significant" -- totaling more than $50 or $100. The proposed tax would also not apply to those with a medical exemption from receiving the vaccine.

Quebec has reported the most COVID-19 deaths of any Canadian province with more than 12,000. The province has ordered schools to close and implemented a 10 p.m. curfew due to rising cases amid the presence of the Omicron variant.

The premier added that 10% of eligible Quebecers had not received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while unvaccinated people make up 50% of the province's intensive care patients.

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"Those who refuse to get their first doses in the coming weeks will have to pay a new health contribution," Legault said. "The majority are asking that there be consequences ... It's a question of fairness for the 90% of the population that have made some sacrifices. We owe them."

The province also last week announced that it would require residents to be vaccinated in order to buy alcohol or cannabis, with proof of vaccination already required to eat in restaurants, go to a gym or attend a sporting event.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Wednesday that he was awaiting more details about the proposed fine before he would support the idea, adding it must comply with the Canada Health Act -- which guarantees universal access to healthcare -- and be consistent with "the rights we all cherish as Canadians.

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"Details matter. We need to know exactly what measures they're putting forward. We need to know the terms and conditions so we can know if it'll be effective," Trudeau said. "We'll be looking at the details to see how exactly this will transpire."

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