Saskatoon

Sask. premier plans to scrap proof of vaccination requirement by end of February

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the provincial vaccine requirement program is expected to be scrapped by the end of the month.

Premier says vaccine no longer protects people against Omicron transmission, doctors disagree

Premier Scott Moe says vaccine restrictions will be lifted by the end of February. (Matt Duguid/CBC)

Premier Scott Moe says the provincial vaccine requirement program is expected to be scrapped by the end of the month.

In a news conference on Monday, Moe made the claim that COVID-19 vaccines no longer reduce the transmission of the Omicron variant. He said that means the vaccine requirement program is no longer needed.

"People are asking their government for a return to normal, a removal of public health restrictions," he said. 

"It is time for us as a government to do what Saskatchewan people are asking for."

At present, all Saskatchewan residents must show proof that they have received two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine to enter restaurants, bars and other businesses. They also have the option to provide a negative COVID-19 test.

The current health order expires on Feb. 28. Moe said the vaccination policy will end sometime this month.

Premier Moe began making comments about the effectiveness of the Omicron variant this weekend, in a letter written in support of the national truck convoy movement in what began as opposition to mandatory vaccination for cross-border truckers — and has since evolved to include a range of opposition to COVID-19 public health measures.

WATCH| Moe says his government is looking at removing public health restrictions:

Saskatchewan premier speaks about removing COVID-19 restrictions

5 months ago
Duration 0:20
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Scott Moe said his government is looking at removing public health restrictions in the coming weeks.

Many health professionals have spoken out against Moe's stance, saying his information is incorrect.

Opposition leader Ryan Meili said he strongly disagrees with the plan and believes Moe is relying on false information.

"It's idiotic. I cannot imagine someone in a leadership role displaying such extreme ignorance," he said. 

"He's ignoring expert virologists. He's ignoring epidemiologists. He's ignoring [chief medical health officer] Dr. Shahab."

During the news conference, Moe noted that both he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had contracted the Omicron variant, despite receiving three shots of the vaccine, including a booster shot.

"It's quite obvious that the virus itself has adapted through Omicron and transmits among vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals quite freely," said Moe.

Experts call Moe's statements 'false'

Meanwhile, many doctors across the province are stating that Moe is using false information.

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Alex Wong has said that Moe's claim that immunization does not prevent people from contracting COVID-19 is false.

On Twitter, he said that three doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccine provides 60-70 per cent protection versus Omicron infection. He went on to say that people who are not infectious do not transmit the virus.

Dr. Hassan Masri said Moe's message about vaccines not reducing transmission is incorrect and damaging.

"Vaccines do decrease the transmission of the virus, do decrease the ability to actually acquire the virus in the first place."

As well, earlier this week, virologist Angela Rasmussen with the University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) said she was concerned about the provincial government's direction to relax restrictions.

"When you have a situation like this where there's a lot of a particular variant spreading, in this case Omicron, which is highly transmissible, you really want to be doing more to decrease transmission, not relax restrictions," said Angela Rasmussen on CBC's Morning Edition

While Omicron appears not to be as severe as other variants, it still has the potential to overwhelm the health-care system, according to the virologist.

With files from Theresa Kliem

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