One day after the Canadian province of Quebec announced it would financially penalize residents who are unvaccinated, the province's health minister said Wednesday first-time appointments spiked in the hours following the announcement.
"It's encouraging!" Quebec's health minister, Christian Dube, tweeted, indicating that Tuesday's first-dose appointments were the highest in several days.
The fine for the unvaccinated would not apply to those with a medical exemption, and no details have been announced, although officials said the amount to be levied would be "significant."
The Quebec government says that while nearly 90% of eligible Quebecers have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, the unvaccinated remain a burden on the province's public health system.
At a Covid-19 briefing Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wouldn't weigh in on whether Quebec's financial penalty for the unvaccinated was good policy, saying he needed to see further details.
Trudeau underscored that Canada has strict vaccine mandates in place for airline and train passengers, federal workers, and workplaces regulated by the federal government.
"And for people who continue to hesitate or to choose not to get vaccinated, they are losing privileges to do certain things, whether it's get on a train or a plane, whether it's travel internationally, whether it's move forward with a job in the public service," said Trudeau at a news conference Wednesday acknowledging there is continued debate on how best to incentivize the unvaccinated.
Last week, Quebec, where nearly a quarter of all Canadians live, announced that residents would have to be vaccinated to buy alcohol or cannabis. Proof of vaccination is required in order to eat in restaurants, go to the gym or attend sporting events.
Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos added that while the new penalty in Quebec could not violate Canada's health laws, vaccination is the way out of the pandemic and mandates have been a useful tool in Canada.
"We have also demonstrated at the federal level that vaccine mandates work, 99% of public servants, almost 99% of public servants at the federal level are either fully vaccinated or soon to be fully vaccinated," Duclos said at a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday.
Public health officials say the vast majority of patients in Quebec hospitals remain unvaccinated. Officials have not said how many hospitalized Covid patients are unvaccinated.