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Quebec's not the first to tax the unvaccinated. Here's what other places have done


Quebec may be the first in Canada, and in North America, to impose a tax on the unvaccinated, as it announced plans to do Tuesday, but it's far from the first in the world.

Several countries have imposed cash penalties on those who refuse a vaccine, and major companies are also increasingly slapping unvaccinated workers with financial consequences.

Some of the penalties are very high, especially in Austria, whose government in November became the first in Europe to announce it would create a tax.

A couple of weeks later, it announced the price tag: about $5,150 CAD (3,600 Euros) every three months required from everyone over 14 who remains unvaccinated, according to Reuters. That adds up to over $20,000 CAD per person per year.

Has Austria's plan worked? It's too soon to say, since it won't begin until February. Prior to announcing the tax, Austria had tried a strategy of saying that only the unvaccinated would be subject to lockdown measures.

Shortly after it changed course, Greece made a similar announcement, though for a smaller group and with a lighter price.

In that country the measure only applies to unvaccinated people over 60. Starting Jan. 16, it plans to fine them the equivalent of about $143 CAD (100 Euros) each month, adding up to about $1,716 a year if a person stays unvaccinated all year, the BBC reported.

As in Quebec, Greece's rule was explicitly described as a way to help fund a struggling health system overburdened with COVID-19 patients.

Quebec hasn't yet said how high the tax will be, with Premier François Legault only saying Tuesday that $50 or $100 "is not significant" enough for him.

At least one country has opted for a different, and potentially much higher, financial penalty -- making the unvaccinated pay for their own medical care.

Singapore, which has a universal health system similar to Canada's, made the change as of Jan. 1, deciding that unvaxxed people who landed in hospital with COVID-19 will be billed for their stay, reported NPR

"Currently, unvaccinated persons make up a sizeable majority of those who require intensive inpatient care, and disproportionately contribute to the strain on our healthcare resources," Singapore's health department said in a statement.

The rule only applies to people who are unvaccinated "by choice" and not those who are ineligible for vaccines, such as people with medical exemptions.

Singapore was already refusing, however, to foot the bill for people who are fully vaccinated but who caught COVID-19 during overseas travel, NPR wrote.

Some countries have taken the mirror-image approach, offering financial carrots rather than sticks. Both Lithuania's and Slovakia's governments are paying seniors small amounts to get vaccinated, or at least to get a booster, according to Bloomberg News.

Lithuania will give 100 euros ($143 CAD) to anyone over 75 who gets their booster shot by the end of March.

Slovakia is giving 300 euros ($438 CAD) to people over 60 who get a booster by mid-January. If they make the appointment by the cutoff but haven't yet had the shot, they're eligible for 200 euros, Reuters reported.

Around the world, some employees are also feeling the consequences as their employers lose patience with their decision to stay unvaccinated.

While there are many rules that have cost unvaccinated workers their jobs, especially in health systems, only now is a there a new trend of differentiated financial treatment for unvaxxed workers who stay on the job alongside the vaccinated.

The U.K. arm of furniture giant IKEA, for example, has cut its sick-pay rate for unvaxxed employees who are exposed to COVID-19 and need to self-isolate, it announced Monday. 

These workers could now make as little as $164 CAD a week (about 96 GBP).

The rule only applies to those who have an exposure -- unvaccinated workers who actually get sick with the virus will be paid the full sick-pay rate. The change came after the U.K. lessened the self-isolation period for vaccinated people after an exposure, but kept it at 10 days for the unvaxxed, the BBC wrote.

In the U.S. state of Nevada, unvaccinated people working for the state government and using public-employee health insurance will be, as of July, required to pay an extra $55 per month for the insurance, according to ABC News.

That's meant to cover the skyrocketing cost of frequently testing many of those employees, including weekly tests for a large number of them, state officials said.

Historically, taxing the unvaccinated wasn't considered beyond the pale in some other pandemics, though the penalties weren't necessarily too stiff, according to the L.A. Times.

The first-ever vaccine, against smallpox, was made mandatory for all infants in England in 1853, wrote columnist Nicholas Goldberg, and their parents could be slapped with fines and prison terms for refusing.

The U.S. Supreme Court also heard a 1905 case over Massachusetts' wish to use "police power" to make vaccinations compulsory, and it ruled in the state's favour, he wrote.

But the penalty was only $5 for not complying, or about $200 in today's Canadian dollars. Top Stories

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