You don’t have to look further than Saskatchewan and Alberta to see what happens when governments eliminate public health restrictions too soon and reject vaccine mandates.
As predicted by infectious disease experts and front-line health-care workers, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are soaring in both provinces after their respective governments recklessly lifted nearly all restrictions in July and insisted vaccine mandates were not necessary.
It's further evidence immunization rates are too low to return to post-pandemic life and rejecting proof-of-vaccination passports comes at a great cost.
Manitoba’s decision to restore mandatory indoor mask use last month (which should never have been dropped) and implement vaccine mandates, including for health-care workers and public school employees, was the right one.
Manitoba’s decision to restore mandatory indoor mask use last month and implement vaccine mandates, including for health–care workers and public school employees, was the right one.
Cases and hospitalizations are among the lowest in the country, even as the economy reopens and Manitobans return to some semblance of normal life.
Contrary to misinformation circulated by the anti-immunization crowd, vaccines are safe.
According to the latest data from the Public Health Agency of Canada, there have been only 14,101 reports of adverse effects submitted to the Canadian Adverse Events Following Immunization Surveillance System since the vaccine rollout began in December.
That's 0.027 per cent of the 52 million doses administered in Canada. Most of those were non-serious, such as injection site pain, headaches, itching, fatigue and nausea.
There have been 2,656 "adverse events of special interest," reported to the surveillance system. They include 751 cardiovascular system events (631 of which were inflammation of the heart muscle or of the lining around the heart), 790 circulatory system events (including blood clots) and 579 nerves and central nervous system reports.
"Some unrelated medical events do occur by chance after immunization, especially when millions of people are being vaccinated." – PHAC surveillance report
There were also 184 deaths reported after COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada. Of those, 73 were unlikely to be linked to immunization, 68 could not be assessed due to insufficient information, 37 are still under investigation and six were tied to thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (blood clotting with low platelet levels).
The reported events are still under investigation to determine whether there was a causal link to the vaccine. That’s important because correlation does not imply causation.
"Some unrelated medical events do occur by chance after immunization, especially when millions of people are being vaccinated," PHAC said in its surveillance report.
Either way, the reported adverse events represent a tiny percentage of the 52 million doses administered.
The data are similar in the United States, under its Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.
The evidence continues to show the risk of severe illness and death from COVID–19 infections far outweighs the potential harm from vaccines.
Not surprisingly, some in the anti-vax movement deliberately misrepresent the data to stir up fear, especially in the U.S., where claims have been made "thousands of people" are dying from the vaccine.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 7,218 reports of death following COVID-19 vaccines (0.002 per cent of the 369 million doses administered). However, "a review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines," the CDC says in its surveillance report.
There have been some indications of a "plausible causal relationship" between the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and blood clots resulting in death, the report says. But that’s a far cry from claiming thousands of people are dying from the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the evidence continues to show the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 infections far outweighs the potential harm from vaccines. Over 27,000 Canadians have died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus and many more have developed long-term health conditions.
Manitoba can avoid the mess occurring in Alberta and Saskatchewan if it continues to take the right precautions, including maintaining existing restrictions and vaccine mandates.
Provincial officials failed to act on the evidence from neighbouring jurisdictions during the third wave. Let’s hope they don’t make the same mistake.
Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.