Premier Brian Pallister has hit a new low, going after Manitobans who are fighting for their lives in critical care units, blaming them for not getting immunized.
About 70 per cent of COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized last week were either not vaccinated or had not been immunized long enough to build up antibodies to fight the disease. Shared Health released the information to provide Manitobans with evidence vaccines work and to encourage them to get inoculated.
For Pallister, it was a way to find someone new to blame for his government's disastrous handling of the pandemic's third wave.
"We continue to see unvaccinated Manitobans requiring admission to hospital and ICUs," the premier said Tuesday.
"That is not because of a lack of available spots or an opportunity to be vaccinated — our vaccine team has made vaccines available to everyone in every age category."
Pallister even suggested (without evidence) many in hospital chose not to get vaccinated.
The premier is wrong on the facts. Vaccine eligibility for the general population in Manitoba remained at 50 years of age until May 5.
Shared Health reported Tuesday many COVID-19 patients recently admitted to intensive care are between the ages of 30 and 50. Many of those would not have been eligible to book a vaccine appointment until the week of May 5, much less get immunized until very recently. (It can take two to three weeks to get an appointment.)
Once vaccinated, it takes up to three weeks to build up immunity against the novel coronavirus. There may be many valid reasons why some in hospital have not been vaccinated.
“We know that there’s people who hadn’t had the opportunity at that time to be vaccinated, so it’s not about attributing blame necessarily there." — Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer
Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer — who doesn’t make it a habit of publicly contradicting Pallister — corrected the premier during Tuesday's news conference.
"We know that there’s people who hadn’t had the opportunity at that time to be vaccinated, so it’s not about attributing blame necessarily there," he said.
It is for Pallister, whose unfocused rage and instability have become a growing concern at a time when Manitobans need stability and a steady hand in government.
When asked if he believed blaming Manitobans was helping the situation, the Tory premier flew off the handle in a bizarre rant.
"When people don’t go and get tested when they have COVID, who else am I supposed to talk about?" said Pallister. "When people go in and don’t co-operate with a contact tracer and provide information on who they’ve been in contact with, how the hell are we supposed to stop people from getting COVID?"
“When people go in and don’t co-operate with a contact tracer and provide information on who they’ve been in contact with, how the hell are we supposed to stop people from getting COVID?” — Premier Brian Pallister
These are not the characteristics of a mature, confident leader capable of making tough decisions under pressure. These are the signs of a self-absorbed politician struggling with an inferiority complex, swinging at anybody and anything to find excuses for his own failings.
Pallister’s behaviour is not entirely new. He has struggled throughout most of his political career with separating personal ego from duties in public office. It has made for an unhealthy and unhappy environment within government. It has worsened during the pandemic.
The province’s hospital system is collapsing.
Not only is Manitoba forced to transfer critical care patients to other jurisdictions because the province can no longer care for them, thousands of other Manitobans who need non-COVID treatment are being neglected. Surgeries and other procedures have been cancelled; Shared Health is now actively considering options to have cardiac patients sent out of province.
It's an unmitigated disaster.
All of this was avoidable, had government listened to the experts and brought in strict public health measures last month.
No one would expect Pallister to take responsibility for this mess; he's incapable of it.
However, going after dying patients in ICUs and blaming them for not getting vaccinated is beyond the pale. It is utterly disgraceful.
Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.