A southern Manitoba Conservative MP who is seeking re-election has apologized for spreading misinformation that suggested COVID-19 vaccines do more harm than good.
Ted Falk, who has represented the Provencher riding since 2013, told The Carillon newspaper Tuesday that vaccines make people more likely to die from the delta variant.
"You were 13 times more likely to die from the delta variant if you were double vaccinated, than if you were unvaccinated," Falk said in an interview, a point that does not bear out in any scientific literature.
He had cited a Public Health England study, which his office would not provide. Falk backed down within hours, after the Liberals called him out on his erroneous claim.
"This statement is not only categorically false, but also fuels vaccine hesitancy and seriously endangers our communities," wrote Doug Eyolfson, the Liberal candidate for the riding of Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley, who is a physician.
"It is outrageous that any elected official would spread misinformation about COVID-19 when Canadians are looking to them during these trying times," wrote Eyolfson, arguing it is "reckless" for Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole to run such a candidate.
"It is outrageous that any elected official would spread misinformation about COVID–19 when Canadians are looking to them during these trying times." –Doug Eyolfson
On Tuesday, the Conservatives issued a statement attributed to Falk, in which he apologized.
"I would like to correct erroneous comments I made when referencing a study on COVID vaccines. The statistics I quoted were not correct," the statement reads.
"Vaccines are safe and effective. I have and will continue to be an advocate for getting vaccines to every Canadian who wants one. I apologize for any confusion caused by my comments."
Falk is the only Manitoba incumbent who won’t say whether he’s been vaccinated.
"I am showing leadership by not making an issue out of individual vaccination statuses," Falk said Tuesday, arguing Manitoba’s immunization card discriminates against the unvaccinated.
"I am showing leadership by not making an issue out of individual vaccination statuses." –Ted Falk
Falk told a podcast in April that he was "not completely sold on this vaccination," saying the shots were created quickly and "may be fine," but he downplayed the consequences of COVID-19 on people’s health.
O’Toole has refused to disclose how many of his candidates are vaccinated, unlike the other two major parties. When the Free Press asked him why, O’Toole argued the question plays into a Liberal "attempt to divide people, when we should be working together."
The Liberals have used the Conservatives’ reluctance to implement vaccine requirements on trains and planes as a wedge issue, after persistent criticism for calling an election during the pandemic.
The Conservatives noted a Liberal candidate in Calgary tweeted last November that those who "demanded to be the guinea pigs" should get vaccines first so "those with brains" were less likely to suffer side-effects; Jessica Dale-Walker apologized last month for those comments.