The Canadian province of Quebec is set to fine unvaccinated residents who do not have a medical exemption from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, the premier of the French-speaking province announced on Tuesday.
Premier Francois Legault said adult residents who do not qualify for medical exemptions will be charged a financial penalty, adding he believes that refusing to get vaccinated leads to consequences for the health care system.
It marks the first time a government in Canada has announced a financial penalty for people who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
At a press conference, Legault said the unvaccinated represent 10 percent of Quebec’s population.
"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 percent of the population that have made some sacrifices. We owe them.”
Legault didn’t elaborate on the details of the financial penalty, but said it would be “significant.”
The announcement comes a week after Canada’s federal health minister Jean-Yves Duclos said he expects COVID-19 vaccinations will become mandatory.
"I see it coming personally. Not now. I don’t think we are there yet. But I think decisions need to be had about mandatory vaccinations because we have to get rid of COVID-19,” Duclos said last week when pressed on the issue.
The health minister’s office later issued a statement saying that imposing mandatory vaccinations will be up to each provincial jurisdiction.
Legault said unvaccinated adults in Quebec represent about 50 percent of intensive care patients.
Quebec previously announced a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. Officials said that will come off as soon as things improve.
The Canadian province isn’t the first to consider imposing fines on the unvaccinated.
In Greece, those over 60 have until Jan. 16 to get their first jabs or be fined 100 euros ($113) for every month they remain unvaccinated.
Meanwhile, in Austria, the health minister announced last month the government plans to impose fines of up to 3,600 euros (around $4,000) on people who flout a COVID-19 vaccine mandate it aims to introduce in February for all residents age 14 and over.