On Sept. 15, Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party government declared a state of public health emergency due to the significant increase in COVID cases, COVID-related deaths, and the exhaustion of the Alberta health care system. Along with declaring a state of public health emergency, Kenney also announced the Restriction Exemption Program. Essentially, the Restriction Exemption Program is a vaccine passport program. However, Jason Kenney and the UCP have chosen not to call it a vaccine passport program due to potential backlash from anti-vaxxers.
The Alberta Restriction Exemption Program is an institution that is intended to incentivize people to get vaccinated. According to Alberta vaccine statistics on the Alberta Government website (https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm), since the declaration of the program, more Albertans have gotten vaccinated. A $100 reward for getting vaccinated was not an efficient institution to get people vaccinated, according to the Alberta vaccination statistics, because it did not significantly increase the amount of vaccinations. Implementing the vaccine passport had to occur since the threat of hospitalization and death was not good enough to incentivize some people to get vaccinated.
However, anti-vaxxers complain on social media and at protests about how they expect the rest of society to cooperate with them when they do not cooperate with the rest of society. The only way to get out of this pandemic is to decrease hospitalizations by vaccinating. As of Sept. 16, Dr. Hinshaw stated that 82 per cent of COVID hospitalizations are unvaccinated or half vaccinated, according to the CBC. Suppose people make choices that hinder the rest of society. In that case, they should not expect the rest of society to cooperate with them. Why should the vaccinated tolerate a group of people who force people not to get lifesaving treatment because they allow for hospitals to overflow with COVID patients?
The argument that anti-vaxxers are discriminated against and oppressed is disrespectful to minorities who actually are discriminated against and oppressed. Let’s clarify that being gay is not a choice, being a person of colour is not a choice, and being transgender is not a choice. However, being unvaccinated is a choice. People who are gay, or of colour, and or transgender are not a threat to society. However, being unvaccinated is a choice and is a threat to the wellbeing of society. This does not include people who cannot vaccinate because of medical reasons. This is toward people who are perfectly capable of being vaccinated but choose not to vaccinate. They claim it is against their rights and freedoms even though they have not read or comprehended the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Comparing being an anti-vaxxer to the Holocaust, residential schools, and/or Holodomor is disgusting.
Suppose anti-vaxxers want to make the adverse decision of not cooperating with the rest of society and helping us get out of the COVID pandemic mess. In that case, they should expect negative consequences. Negative consequences include not having the capability to visit friends or family members, going out to restaurants, going to the movie theatre, or going to the gym. People who are able to get the COVID vaccine should be vaccinated to protect people who cannot. If implementing the Restriction Exemption Program incentivises people to get vaccinated and helps us get out of the pandemic, then so be it.