Statements from Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe that vaccination is not stopping infection or the spread of Omicron do not align with the science of COVID-19, according to medical experts.
In a letter about the trucker protest in Ottawa on Saturday, Moe wrote “because vaccination is not reducing transmission, the current federal border policy for truckers makes no sense.” He doubled down on sentiment during a news conference Monday.
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Vaccination does not appear to be preventing contracting Omicron. That was the case with me, ”Moe said, referencing his own infection earlier this month.
Saskatchewan doctors have rejected Moe’s statements as false, including Regina infectious disease physician Dr. Alex Wong, who called for a correction on social media. Virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen also stated on Twitter that “vaccines both reduce the risk of infection and transmission.”
Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, told Global News “the vaccines are incredibly effective.”
“The literature is showing us that if you have had three doses of COVID vaccine, you’re 70 percent less likely to be infected or to transmit the virus than someone who has had fewer doses,” Smart said.
Moe acknowledged vaccines do reduce the likelihood of severe outcomes from the virus, including hospitalization and death.
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Asked by reporters on what basis he makes his claims, Moe said he’s relying on data about infections in Saskatchewan from last week. A tweet from the Saskatchewan NDP referred to his assessment as “madness” and called for him to step down.
Dr. Cory Neudorf, interim senior medical health officer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said “there’s a lot more nuance” to the discussion than the premier has put forward.
“Vaccines are still very much very effective. What’s changed is needing to keep up with booster doses, ”Neudorf said.
Early research also suggests that a triple-vaccinated person who has a breakthrough case of COVID-19 still appears to shed the virus in a smaller amount and has fewer days of transmissibility, according to Neudorf.
On Monday, Moe also reiterated a promise to end proof of vaccination or negative test requirements in the coming weeks. He said the restriction was implemented to encourage vaccinations and reduce transmission of the virus, but it has run its course.
Now constituents are calling on MLAs to end public health orders, including the vaccine mandate, according to Moe.
“People are asking their government for a return to normal – a removal of public health restrictions, and we most certainly are looking at how we can do that in the weeks ahead,” Moe said.
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He did not provide a date for ending the mandate, but said the government is considering shelving the vaccine requirement before Feb. 28.
Neudorf told Global News that despite what some protesters may say, the current restrictions are working and not designed to be in place forever.
“Right now, we’re at a peak of a fifth wave, so now would certainly not be the time to lift restrictions,” Neudorf said.
When the time comes, Neudorf said restrictions should be slowly phased out and only when it’s safe.
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