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Opinion: Don't be surprised if 'screws are tightened' by B.C. on the unvaccinated

Quebec has toughened its mandate
Covid 19 vaccination

A rising chorus is being heard calling for harsher measures aimed at those who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

And as the Omicron variant spreads around the world with remarkable speed, and as hospitalizations and ICU cases climb in number, do not be surprised if the screws are tightened further on the unvaccinated.

We are heading towards a situation in which less than 10 per cent of the population (the unvaccinated) will take up more and more resources in a health-care system that is nearing capacity. Surgeries are being rescheduled and front-line health-care workers are burning out - all because of COVID-19.

Last month, almost 70 per cent of COVID-19 hospitalizations and almost 80 per cent of ICU cases involved unvaccinated people. (These percentages have begun to shrink somewhat; for example, this week began with unvaccinated folks accounting for 60 per cent of the ICU cases.) That is a lot of beds, nurses and doctors diverted from treating vaccinated individuals requiring health care that may have nothing to do with the virus.

I do not think we should stop providing health care for unvaccinated people, nor do I support forcing people to be vaccinated.

But surely more must be done to convince more people to get the jab and to relieve growing pressure on our health-care system, for the benefit of the vast majority (i.e. those vaccinated) of our population.

While the percentage of unvaccinated in B.C. remains small, even a small percentage of a large number can yield a very large number.

Consider this: as of last Wednesday, 369,081 British Columbians over the age of 12 had yet to receive even a single dose of a vaccine. That number is declining by less than 1,500 a day.

These people are spread around the province. While it is true that vaccination rates are significantly lower in many parts of the Interior and the north, keep in mind that even in a highly vaccinated place like Surrey (more than 90 per cent have had at least one dose) there remain more than 55,000 unvaccinated residents there.

Now, I do not think very many of this group are the aggressive, obnoxious, menacing, scientifically illiterate conspiracy theorists you see at pathetically small anti-vax rallies. I am sure most are just regular folks who need to step up and perform what is essentially their civic duty.

But what will it take convince them to do that?

Quebec will soon require proof of vaccination for anyone wanting to purchase liquor or cannabis. Interestingly enough, first-dose vaccinations there quadrupled (from 1,500 a day to 6,000 a day) almost immediately after the new restrictions were announced.

Will B.C. and other provinces follow suit and adopt a similar rule? Will we move to a system of fines and penalties for the unvaccinated, as is unfolding in a number of European countries?

The vaccination net is tightening around these folks. Eventually their ability to enjoy much of life will be severely constricted as vaccine mandates expand in number and scope and as our health-care system increasingly feels the pinch from those who refuse to get a slight pinch in the arm.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.