Canada’s health minister says vaccinations against COVID-19 could become mandatory.
Jean-Yves Duclos stressed Friday he was voicing his personal opinion because it’s up to the provinces, who manage their own healthcare systems, to make vaccinations compulsory.
However, he said it was a topic being discussed by the international community and could happen in Canada.
“I personally think we will get there at some point – mandatory vaccination (with approved medical exemptions),” he told a media briefing in Ottawa.
However, until that happens, he assured Canadians its governments had “both the tools and the will” to navigate the coronavirus pandemic safely.
“Vaccination is what’s going to get us out of this challenge,” he added.
“Not only in the short-term but in the long-term, COVID-19 will continue to be among us. There will be more variants.”
Duclos noted 77 per cent of all Canadians of all ages have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. And, he said they would soon have access to booster shots as they become more widely available.
He noted more than 8.6 million booster shots have already been administered across the country; Canada has enough doses of pediatric vaccine to give all children aged five to seven two doses by the end of this month; and, an additional 140 million rapid antigen tests were being distributed to provinces and territories on a per-capita basis.
“Tests are an important tool to empower individual Canadians to cut the spread of the Omicron variant,” Duclos told reporters.
“These tests enable Canadians to validate their symptoms and take personal action to isolate and reduce the risk to others.”
Duclos said he spoke with health ministers across the country Thursday to hear their concerns about managing the challenges of the Omicron variant.
He said the provinces and territories told him they have increased their vaccine administration in the past few weeks.
He said they had been giving up to 2 million shots per week in early January, up from about 1 million people per week in December.
“And now, we’re looking at 3 million vaccinations per week,” he said.
In the meantime, Ottawa has signed an ongoing vaccine supply deal with drug-makers Merck and Pfizer, Duclos added.