Provinces should consider mandating COVID-19 vaccines, federal health minister says

With health-care capacity stretched “too thin” in the face of an unrelenting wave of COVID-19 infections, Canada’s health minister says provinces and territories should be considering mandating vaccinations.

“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,” Jean-Yves Duclos told reporters during a federal COVID-19 briefing on Friday.

“PPE, physical distancing, tests… these are all very important tools, but what will make us move through this crisis and end it is vaccination,” he said.

Citing the example of his home province of Quebec, where he said 50 per cent of hospitalizations are due to people being unvaccinated, Duclos said he thinks mandating COVID-19 shots—going beyond a vaccine passport system limiting access to certain spaces and activities—should be considered.

“I’m signalling this as a conversation which I believe provinces and territories, in support with the federal government, will want to have over the next weeks and months,” said the health minister.

Duclos said that it’s his personal view, but one that is based on conversations with his provincial health minister counterparts and informed by what he’s been tracking both domestically and internationally.

“Whether it be they move forward or not, that’s going to be their decision to make,” he said.

Canada is facing what Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam called an “enormous” number of COVID-19 cases, with hospitalization rates increasing exponentially.

“The capacity is stretched too thin, certainly in the current emergency context,” Duclos said.

On Friday he and his colleague Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc signalled that the federal government’s capacity to assist is not infinite.

“That’s also a warning, a kind warning, but a clear warning to some provinces and territories that they need to act now. Because if they don’t act sufficiently, it is going to be difficult for the federal government to help after because we don’t have the capacity to do so,” said Duclos.

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