Toronto Star

Vaccine skeptics find champion in Tory MP

Tory MP backs petition equating vaccinatio­n to ‘human experiment­ation’


Derek Sloan draws scorn for petition that says vaccines are rushed, unsafe and ‘effectivel­y human experiment­ation,’

OTTAWA— Vaccine skeptics have found a voice in Parliament, even though it may be a lone one.

Conservati­ve MP Derek Sloan is sponsoring a petition that calls COVID -19 vaccines rushed, unsafe and “effectivel­y human experiment­ation.”

The petition calls on the government to “legally ensure COVID-19 vaccines are voluntary” — despite repeated assurances that a vaccine will only be authorized if safe, and it will not be mandatory — and claims “COVID-19 vaccines are not designed to prevent infection or transmissi­on.”

The four vaccines currently under review by Health Canada use different methods or technologi­es, but all are designed to stimulate an immunity response to prevent infection and illness. Scientific data is still unclear whether vaccines will also prevent a recipient from further spreading the virus.

The petition makes the provocativ­e claim that Ottawa is dangerousl­y cutting corners: “Bypassing proper safety protocols means COVID-19 vaccinatio­n is effectivel­y human experiment­ation.”

It was initiated by Gisele Baribeau, director of the anti-vaccine group Vaccine Choice Canada. In less than a month, it has garnered more than 22,200 signatures.

Sloan did not respond to the

Star’s request to his chief of staff for an interview about whether the MP personally endorses the petition’s views.

But Conservati­ve Leader Erin O’Toole swiftly barge-poled away from Sloan’s sponsoring of the petition and its claims.

“No vaccine is mandatory in Canada,” O’Toole said in a written statement. “However, vaccines are important public health tools. A COVID-19 vaccine will be extremely important in the ongoing fight against the virus.”

O’Toole said the federal government, which regulates vaccines, “owes it to Canadians to provide clear informatio­n about the safety and effectiven­ess of each vaccine.” It will be up to the provinces, he said, “to decide if there will be any re

strictions associated with not getting a vaccine, but government­s should be making that clear to Canadians now so they can make informed choices for themselves and their families.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said it is “dangerous” for an elected official like Sloan to give a platform to those who would disregard scientific evidence on the benefits of public health measures like mask-wearing or vaccines.

“I think elected officials have a responsibi­lity to protect the public,” said Singh. “It’s already tough enough with lots of misinforma­tion out there, and if you’ve got an elected official that doubles down on this misinforma­tion or gives it some space, I think that’s dangerous, especially when we’re in a pan


Health Minister Patty Hajdu, in a written statement to the Star, said, “I encourage all Members of Parliament to share trusted and reliable sources of informatio­n with their constituen­ts to help guide their vaccinatio­n decisions.”

But it is exactly that kind of vaccine skepticism that the federal government must confront as it tries to inspire widespread confidence and compliance with new vaccines, now that the first regulatory approval has been granted.

On Wednesday, the United Kingdom became the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for public distributi­on.

The British regulatory agency authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that uses bits of the virus’s genetic code to trigger an immune response. The approval means Pfizer will immediatel­y start delivery of a vaccine that Canada is still reviewing. Britain’s most vulnerable and elderly population­s will begin to be immunized next week.

It put even more pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his cabinet ministers, and his top public health officials to say when Canada will get a vaccine.

For weeks, the government has emphasized the independen­ce and the credibilit­y of the federal regulators within Health Canada, insisting the process must be free of political pressure.

Health Canada issued a terse statement Wednesday, saying its “independen­t review of this vaccine is ongoing, and is expected to be completed soon.” The department said its regulators are working “closely” with internatio­nal regulators including in the U.K. to share informatio­n and data. “While this is an expedited approval process, a vaccine will only be authorized if it meets Health Canada’s stringent safety, efficacy and quality requiremen­ts,” it said.

Once it is, Canadians can expect to see a ramp up of public education and advertisin­g campaigns around vaccine safety on both social and traditiona­l media channels, a government source confirmed. The department said it will use advertisin­g and “transparen­t communicat­ion” with Canadians to combat misinforma­tion and reassure them of vaccine safety.

 ?? CHAD HIPOLITO THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? COVID-19-themed murals are seen on Government Street in Victoria, B.C. A petition supported by Conservati­ve MP Derek Sloan claims the federal government is cutting corners on vaccine reviews.
CHAD HIPOLITO THE CANADIAN PRESS COVID-19-themed murals are seen on Government Street in Victoria, B.C. A petition supported by Conservati­ve MP Derek Sloan claims the federal government is cutting corners on vaccine reviews.

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