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Zalan: Who should foot the rapid-testing bill for vaccine refusers?

‘Is it reasonable to expect the province or the school boards to subsidize individuals who refuse vaccination, when such action may harm the students in their charge?’

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s new chief medical officer of health, is worried about the Delta variant getting out of control. Infection numbers continue to rise in Sudbury and in Ontario.  

Moore has passed new directives for all publicly funded school board employees. If such individuals choose to remain unvaccinated without a medical or religious reason, he or she must submit to regular rapid antigen testing. 

This is a good decision because only 76 per cent of individuals aged 12+ are fully vaccinated. The unvaccinated, the partially vaccinated and the under 12 population pose a significant risk as spreaders of infection. According to the Health Ministry in Israel, about half of the new cases this week in that country were in students or school staff. 

Our way of life is threatened by a pandemic that seems to go on without end.  

The cost of a rapid antigen test is in the order of $10 to $20. The cost of two tests per week, for an entire academic year, multiplied by the number of individuals who remain unvaccinated, will add up to a large amount of money. Who will foot the bill: the province, the school board, the unvaccinated individuals? What about the regular testing of under 12 students for whom there is no vaccine? 

I posed this question about payment to Sudbury Public Health and to the Rainbow District School Board. They did not know who would pay. I did obtain the following information, “The Letter of Instruction from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the supporting guidance document are tracking for release next week.”

Please think about who should bear the cost. Is it reasonable to expect the province or the school boards to subsidize individuals who refuse vaccination, when such action may harm the students in their charge? While it is the right of men and women to remain unvaccinated, it is the responsibility of these individuals to bear the consequences of such a decision. That decision may prove harmful to the community in which they live. 

Here is the headline of a story in The Atlantic, an American magazine. “Vaccine Refusers Don’t Get to Dictate Terms Anymore.” The story continues, “People who opt out of shots shouldn’t expect their employers, health insurers, and fellow citizens to accommodate them. Rather than fire non-compliant employees, for example, Delta Air Lines opted for a financial penalty … It acknowledges the free will of vaccine refusers: They can keep rejecting the shot, as long as they accept the consequences … Vaccination mandates are essentially a recognition that the burden of fighting the pandemic shouldn’t be on [the vaccinated] alone.”

Who will foot the bill for testing the school board employees who refuse to be vaccinated? Who should foot that bill? We will hear from the chief medical officer of health of Ontario next week.

Dr. Peter Zalan is the former president of the medical staff at Health Sciences North, and a retired intensive care physician.