QUEBEC CITY -- Whether they like it or not, health-care workers could soon be forced to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Quebec.

Health Minister Christian Dubé indicated at a news conference on Tuesday that he was examining this scenario and would make a decision on the matter in the very near future.

As a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic begins, caused by the growing presence of the highly contagious Delta variant, the government is looking for every way to minimize its impact, Dubé said.

"In the next few days, we will have to make a decision with public health on the vaccination of health employees," said the minister. "I can tell you that the context of the variant, and I've said it, everybody knows it, that variant is more contagious, it is more dangerous. So if there is an adjustment to be brought for health-care employees we will do it quickly."

Until now, Quebec has resisted the temptation to force health-care staff, who work in close contact with the sick and the most fragile members of society, to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

"But the discourse has changed, because for health-care workers, it's obvious that it's being considered now," he added.

Currently, the available data vary as to the proportion of health-care workers who are fully vaccinated. Depending on the source, it is estimated that between 77 per cent and 90 per cent of health care workers are vaccinated. Dubé quoted the latter figure in his news conference.

Currently, health-care workers who refuse to be vaccinated must be tested three times a week.

Quebec is more reluctant to impose vaccination on employees in other sectors.

The minister's press conference was focused primarily on the upcoming implementation of the vaccine passport, which will allow fully vaccinated individuals access to certain public places, such as restaurants and gyms.

In the type of establishments where a passport will be needed, employees will not be required to be vaccinated, but customers will.

In this regard, Dubé explained that the government would comply with the rules of the Labour Code, at least "for the time being."

He said staff vaccination "cannot be required".

"There is really a difference between the client and the employee," he said, "because legally, work is a right."

He would not comment on the case of teachers.

Last week, the Liberal opposition called for mandatory vaccination for health-care workers to better protect patients, as did the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association.

Recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also raised the possibility of requiring vaccination for certain categories of federal government employees.


-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Aug. 10, 2021.