Notley kicks off election campaign by discussing vaccines

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley launched her bid Monday to surprise Albertans with another term as premier and topple the reigning UCP.

Notley kicks off election campaign by discussing vaccines
Facebook/ Rachel Notley
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Notley wasted no time taking political swipes at her opponent, UCP Leader Danielle Smith. She claimed Smith believed in "conspiracies" concerning vaccines and healthcare while attempting to elevate the NDP as a party of "science and evidence." 

Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said the vaccine manufacturers and provinces and territories continue to monitor the safety of COVID vaccines closely.

"We'll respond to any safety issues right away and inform Canadians about any risks that arise in Canada," said Health Canada. As of March 3, Canadians received 97,597,702 vaccine doses, with 10,685 people experiencing adverse reactions considered severe by the federal health agency.

In September 2021, the Alberta NDP advised the UCP to fund a "door-to-door campaign to address vaccine hesitancy" to study the issue further and "identify and address underlying causes, including financial and language barriers."

"Higher vaccination rates will reduce pressure on our hospitals, and help lessen, maybe even prevent, future waves of infection," said Notley. "I realize that some Albertans are vehemently opposed to vaccination, and it may be difficult to change their minds, but it's not impossible."

In January, the UCP created a panel to review its predecessor's governance lapses during the COVID pandemic to improve future responses to health emergencies.

The province named five members to the COVID review panel led by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. He has until November 15 to submit a final report.

"Albertans can have confidence Alberta's pandemic response will be reviewed by these medical, policy, legal and economic experts so our province can better respond to the next public health emergency," said Smith, expressing remorse for how the party handled the pandemic.

The NDP has promised to cancel the panel should they form a government on May 29.

In January, Manning and Smith publicly criticized government health restrictions such as masking, gathering rules and vaccine mandates during the pandemic. 

"We must take the opportunity to review the province's COVID response and examine whether and how that approach can be improved in future health emergencies," said Manning, whose panel will review their impacts on jobs, children, mental health and protecting rights and freedoms. He will consult experts and public stakeholders to voice how the province can improve their response to future crises.

Smith pledged her predecessor's mandates would bear no role in future COVID responses.

According to the Fraser Institute, public health lockdowns devastated the economy and are considered a "radical and untried social policy." 

"Over and over, findings showed only minor positive effects on death rates. The most recent and thorough meta-analysis found that after combining all lockdown effects, there was only an average reduction in mortality of 3.2 percent," claimed the institute.

The Imperial College of London model predicted 132,687 COVID-related deaths in Canada by July 30, 2020, with full lockdowns in place. By that date, only 9,019 Canadians had died from COVID.

Smith challenged the long-term effects of the COVID measures on household incomes, the economy and mental health. 

"There are valuable lessons we learned from the Alberta government's response to the COVID-19 public health emergency," she said. "We must apply those lessons to strengthen our management of future public health crises, and the panel's recommendations will be key."

"All lockdown efforts amounted to almost nothing," added a representative from the Fraser Institute, but the estimates of most of these costs are still unavailable.

The Independence Party Candidate Katherine Kowalchuk said the province needs to "gut AHS" and favoured a "thorough" public inquiry into the government response to mitigating the pandemic.

"These sorts of decisions must be made locally and decentralized," she said. "Strong laws and the will of Alberta's leaders must ensure that a law addressing this discrimination is prioritized." 

According to Kowalchuk, the province must amend the Human Rights Act to include medical status/vaccination status as a protected ground - a promise Smith has yet to fulfill.

In the case of terminally ill Sheila Annette Lewis, 57, she cannot receive an organ transplant owing to her vaccination status. In 2018, she learned her idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis condition was terminal and would not survive without a transplant.

In April, Lewis served Alberta Health Services (AHS) with a letter demanding they, and unnamed transplant physicians from an undisclosed hospital, reinstate her to the high-priority transplant waitlist. She unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of vaccine mandates for transplant candidates that remained in place by AHS for over a year. 

Lewis asked her physicians nearly a year ago to test her blood for COVID antibodies to establish natural immunity, but they refused her request. 

In her letter, Lewis demanded that physicians accept her now-established and widely-accepted natural immunity to COVID. However, a physician told her the Kinexus Report concluded she would need a COVID booster even with innate immunity.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which provides the patient with legal counsel, countered that the report said nothing about needing a COVID booster to maintain natural immunity.

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