Manitoba federal Conservative candidate Ted Falk is apologizing after he was quoted in a local newspaper spreading misinformation about the dangers of COVID-19 vaccines, suggesting they may do more harm than good.
The Carillon newspaper quotes the incumbent candidate for Provencher urging constituents to “do their research” on vaccines.
The newspaper quotes Falk as saying his own research revealed a study from Public Health England (PHE) which showed “you were 13 times more likely to die from the delta variant if you were double vaccinated than if you were unvaccinated.”
Similar false claims on social media about the potential harm of vaccines against the delta variant related to the PHE were debunked by Reuters. The news agency said the idea can be traced back to an online post that misinterpreted PHE statistics from a June briefing.
In fact, PHE released a study in June that showed two doses of the vaccine are highly effective in preventing hospitalizations related to the Delta variant.
Just seven hours after the newspaper published the interview, Falk issued a statement admitting the statistics were not correct and apologizing for the confusion.
“I would like to correct erroneous comments I made when referencing a study on COVID vaccines,” Falk wrote in a statement to The Canadian Press.
“Vaccines are safe and effective. I have and will continue to advocate for getting vaccines to every Canadian who wants one.”
Falk also offered several credible sources of vaccine information in the newspaper’s story, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, but was quoted as saying public health experts regularly provide conflicting information on COVID-19 and people must make a choice they feel comfortable with.
The Liberal candidate for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley, Dr. Doug Eyolfson, said the comments in The Carillon article fuel vaccine hesitancy and seriously endanger communities.
“It is outrageous that any elected official would spread misinformation about COVID-19 when Canadians are looking to them during these trying times,” Eyolfson said in a statement to The Canadian Press.
Falk would not tell The Carillon whether he had been vaccinated or not.
“If I declare my status, somebody’s going to weaponize it to their advantage to create further division,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
“I see a lot of division being created in our communities, in friendship groups, in businesses, in churches, all on the issue of ‘vaccinate or no vaccinate.’
“Leadership is also knowing when you shouldn’t be creating division, and I think I am showing leadership by not making an issue out of individual vaccination statuses,” he was quoted as saying.
Liberal Health Minister Patty Hajdu, who is running for re-election in Thunder Bay-Superior North, took aim at Falk last week for refusing to disclose his vaccine status.
“O’Toole won’t tell us which of his candidates are refusing to be vaccinated. Ted Falk, O’Toole’s candidate in Provencher, is one of them,” Hajdu wrote on Twitter on Sept. 6.
“Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team have been guided by science and public health experts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” she wrote. “Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives…? Not so much.”
O’Toole has opposed mandatory vaccinations for public service workers and travellers and has not required his candidates to be vaccinated, but he has still encouraged Canadians to get their doses.
“I’ve been advocating for vaccines for over a year,” O’Toole pronounced from the stage of his party’s broadcast studio in downtown Ottawa last week.
He pledged to boost Canada’s vaccination rate beyond 90 per cent within two months through a combination of a new social media campaign and measures to address those hesitating to get a shot.
The Conservative platform also includes plans to improve COVID-19 vaccine production and procurement to assure access to booster shots.
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