Putting others at risk! Covid row as Spain mulls making anti-vaxxers pay for ICU care
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The Mediterranean country has been badly ravaged by the virus and is currently battling its fifth wave. Unlike previous spikes, the majority of the country’s population over 40 have now received two Covid vaccines – meaning many only suffer mild symptoms.
However a worrying trend has emerged after more than 70 percent of over 50s admitted to intensive care units have not been vaccinated.
This is either through choice or because of a lack of access to vaccination centres.
It costs around £30 to double jab someone with the Pfizer vaccine as opposed to £650 a night to keep a patient alive in ICU.
Many ICU stays cost the country’s health service up to £43,000.
This huge bill to the Spanish taxpayer has sparked a fierce debate over whether people who optionally refuse the jab should pay for their treatment.
“If the pandemic is prolonged by people like this, let them pay. It should be established now,” a nurse in one of the largest hospitals in Barcelona told Spanish radio station La Cadena SER.
“I would also make them pay because they put others at risk,” says another retired nurse.
However many are not in favour of the measure – arguing that it is like charging a footballer for breaking their leg in a match.
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Others say the problem should be tackled by giving benefits to people who have been vaccinated rather than penalising those who haven’t.
Dr Ana Zapatero, deputy of the Intensive Medicine Service (ICU) at the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, said that it is unfair that there are people in hospital because of the recklessness of others, but that happens in many other aspects of life as well.
Dr Zapatero believes that many people have not been vaccinated “for fear of the side effects that have been talked about so much in the media”.
She added: “Our role is not to judge, but to serve everyone.
“Judging must be the responsibility of others, not us who are in the front line, who meet sick, scared and defenceless people.”
Manel Peiró, professor at the ESADE Institute of Health Management, agreed and said that a carrot rather than a stick approach is already being applied in France and Greece.
He said: “The health system in Spain is based on solidarity: we all pay for those who need it.
“Those who defend postulates against vaccines are developing behaviours that are not very supportive and very harmful, obviously.
“In 2015 a child died in Olot from diphtheria, something unusual, because his parents were anti-vax.
“But it is a moral debate that is difficult to solve. It is not easy to determine who has not been vaccinated because they could not and who has shown a denial attitude.
“I would not dare to make them pay. It is very complex.”
Pepe Rodríguez Olmos, professor at the Andalusian School of Public Health and former Secretary of State for Health, is also against it.
He said: “Public health systems do not plan to charge people based on the risk that citizens who acquire a pathology have run.
“The investment in vaccines doesn’t justify charging. It is not done in any country in the world and, in fact, the right of citizens to refuse treatment is recognised. It is not an applicable measure.”
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