Provinces are likely to introduce mandatory vaccination policies in the coming months to deal with surging COVID-19 caseloads, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said today.
“What we see now is that our health care system in Canada is fragile, our people are tired, and the only way that we know to get through COVID-19, this variant and any future variant, is through vaccination,” Duclos said.
Duclos said that while rapid tests, masking and social distancing are useful tools, they won’t end the pandemic on their own.
“Fifty per cent of hospitalizations now, in Quebec, are due to people not having been vaccinated,” he said. “That’s a burden on health care workers, a burden on society which is very difficult to bear and for many people difficult to understand.
“That’s why I’m signaling this is a conversation which I believe provinces and territories, in support with the federal government, will want to have over the next weeks and months.”
Duclos said that while discussions about mandatory vaccination policies are not taking place now, he believes that, based on his “personal understanding of what we see internationally and domestically and in my conversations [with] health ministers over the last few weeks,” the discussion will start in the coming weeks or months.
He stressed that it’s up to the provinces to decide whether to implement mandatory vaccination policies.
Watch: Health minister predicts provinces will make vaccination mandatory ‘at some point’:
Duclos said the provinces are facing a perfect storm of record-setting case numbers, a shortage of health care workers and up to seven million eligible Canadians still unvaccinated.
“What we can do … is provide vaccines, tests, personal protective equipment,” he said. “We can provide tracing support, we can provide all sorts of other non-human resources types of assistance.”
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said there are limits to what the federal government can do to ease shortages of health care staff.
“It’s no surprise that provincial and territorial governments have considerably more health human resources, for example, than would the government of Canada,” he said.