Norwegian leaders should consider taxing people who’ve refused to heed incessant calls to get vaccinated against the Corona virus, suggest two analysts at consulting firm Oslo Economics. That could prod the hold-outs into finally getting vaccinated and ensure that they help cover the costs they impose on the health care system, in line with Norway’s punitive taxes on tobacco and alcohol.
Two partners at Oslo Economics, which offers economic analysis and strategic advice to both the private and public sectors, launched the proposal in a commentary published this week in newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). Svend Boye and Ove Skaug Halsos are both economists specializing in cost/benefit- and regulatory analysis.
They acknowledged that around 90 percent of Norwegian adults are fully vaccinated, but noted that those who haven’t accepted the state’s offer of free vaccinations now make up the majority of those falling seriously ill and needing intensive care.
“An important question is therefore what we can do to get the minority of non-vaccinated to take the vaccine and contribute to society being able to reopen,” Boye and Halsos wrote in DN. A so-called “Corona tax,” they wrote, could motivate vaccine critics to get vaccinated against Covid-19 after all, while the tax itself could be economically justified by the extra expenses that the non-vaccinated put on the public health system and society in general.
Questions remain over how high a Corona tax would be, or how it would be assessed. One proposal calls for a relatively high standard fee charged to non-vaccinated who land in the hospital, or a percentage of their income. The latter, Boye and Halsos suggest, may be the most fair.
Both concede that a Corona tax raises privacy issues and would likely require changes in the law, but an important argument in favor of it “is the extraordinary situation we’re in,” with the entire population “subjected to measures normally viewed as unacceptable.” The rationale behind taxes on sugar, tobacco, alcohol and fuel in Norway, they note, is also largely based on efforts to reduce the damage they cause.
Norwegian health authorities continue to implore all Norwegians to get vaccinated, and are currently in the process of also offering third booster shots to everyone who’s already had two shots. Dr Camilla Stoltenberg, head of the public health institute FHI, told NRK on Tuesday that she was disappointed over how few showed up at vaccination centers last week, just before Christmas, but the pace was picking up dramatically this week.
Vaccine still the best defense
A total of 1,434,141 Norwegians, 26 percent of the adult population, have now received a third dose of the Corona vaccine in Norway, according to FHI. Nearly 4 million Norwegians (3,912,809 as of Monday afternoon) have received two doses in the state vaccination program that began exactly one year ago.
Some non-vaccinated have been showing up to receive their first shots and Stoltenberg hopes more will follow. Vaccination, she claims, is still the first line of defense against serious illness from Covid-19 and its variants, even though it doesn’t always protect against infection itself.