The federal government has to develop more target-oriented policies to convince those who still haven't received a COVID-19 vaccine to get their shots, while engaging in name-calling, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did, is "uniquely unhelpful" to that end, a medical expert told parliamentarians.
"It was a uniquely unhelpful thing that the prime minister did when he said that. It was politically driven; it did not help anyone in the health care industry; it did not convince anyone to change their mind," he testified on March 23.
Jacobs noted that Canadians who are still unvaccinated are mostly in small religious or cultural groups or communities, and to get them to accept the shot, the government would need to reach out with a very specific program, providing them information they need to make an informed decision.
"Some of them are unvaccinated because they've looked at the research and they disagreed with the findings that the majority of health-care workers and scientists have come to in terms of conclusions, and there are other people who are just simply afraid. There are other people who have been misinformed by social media. It's quite a wide array of people, and name-calling is not helpful," he said.
“In terms of mandates, yes, Omicron was highly contagious, and no, the vaccine didn’t do much in terms of preventing spread of [Omicron],” he said. “If it did, it was minimal.”
He said vaccines were a robust prevention for the Delta variant and other previous versions of COVID-19, but that wasn't the case for Omicron.
“That takes away some of the need for a vaccine mandate except—and this is a big exception—what we saw in the hospital were patients who were immunosuppressed, elderly, so de facto immunosuppressed—and the patients who did not receive a full vaccine regimen. They were the ones who were getting very severe COVID pneumonias,” Jacobs said.
Dr. Shiri Kaylan, a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, also told the Health Committee that she “really questions the validity of the current vaccine mandates” imposed on the entirety of the Canadian population.
“If we had focused on protecting the most vulnerable, it would have gone farther than putting blanket mandates on everyone because that actually has the potential to increase vaccine hesitancy and trust in vaccines and the public health-care system in general,” she said.
“It is clear, especially with Omicron, that the vaccines we have cannot really be relied upon to either prevent transmission or infection."
“With this evidence, we should have moved quickly to lift heavy-handed measures and explain the evolving evidence,” she said.
“This is necessary for public trust. It is also good for public health to have a well-informed populace. Having a false sense of security has obvious negative consequences.”