When the idea of imposing a health contribution on the unvaccinated was presented by François Legault, it was above all judged as a political flash. A government going through stormy times pulls a rabbit out of its hat.
We spontaneously guessed that the idea would be popular with the vaccinated majority. With the overflow of hospitals and the constraints of the Omicron wave, impatience towards the unvaccinated is reaching new heights.
Few analyzes have been made of this idea on the merits. Is this good government policy beyond its possible popularity with the electorate? I made up my mind about this when Health Canada approved Paxlovid.
This new COVID drug will be given to patients who have just tested positive and have specific risk factors. Age, chronic diseases, being immunosuppressed are examples of known risk factors.
However, the fact of having refused vaccination must medically be included in this list of risk factors. Minister Jean-Yves Duclos was clear on this. A person not protected by the vaccine will be more likely to see a doctor prescribe him a treatment of Paxlovid, a rare and expensive treatment.
You can easily imagine the objection. Why administer a drug that costs almost $1,000 to a person who has refused the vaccine, a protection that is much less expensive and very easy to obtain? Voices will be raised to deprive the unvaccinated of the new drug or to push them back on the priority list.
This is where the health contribution comes in. By separating the aspect of money and that of health. By separating the need to be fair to all taxpayers and the medical duty to protect the lives of all with the means available.
The choice to administer Paxlovid must remain a matter of calculating medical risk . The health contribution becomes a response to those who will mention the additional cost of this treatment compared to the vaccine.
Risk to assume
Collectively, people who refuse the vaccine decide to take a risk. In our free and universal healthcare system, a significant cost is associated with this risk. We've had it in the face in recent months when the unvaccinated were vastly overrepresented in COVID hospitalizations.
Collectively, they will therefore bear some of the risk they choose to take. There is no question of depriving them of care. There is no question of treating them like second-class citizens when they get sick. It's not about asking them $1000 on the edge of the hospital bed to get their Paxlovid.
It's just about making them bear some of the consequences of the huge choice that is theirs . Smokers know this well. Via huge taxes on tobacco products, they have long been paying for the added risk of their choice.