In a video posted to his Twitter account on Sunday, People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier said he would not receive a vaccine against COVID-19. He argued that he was healthy and relatively young and would face a low risk of death if infected. “I am 58 years old. I think I’m in good shape, ”Bernier said in the video.
A spokesperson for the PPC pointed to data on the government website showing that 993 people between the ages of 50 and 59 have died from the virus, out of 185,552 in the same age group who contracted the virus.
The spokesperson suggested that these figures suggest Bernier faces a low risk of dying from the virus.
Health officials have long argued that Canadians should take the first vaccines available to them to protect themselves and others, stressing that vaccines can prevent further spread and prevent serious side effects in those who contract the virus.
The Public Health Agency of Canada released data Friday that shows fully vaccinated Canadians account for less than one percent of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since December.
Dawn Bowdish, immunologist and Canada Research Chair in Aging and Immunity at McMaster University, said getting the vaccine can help prevent the virus from spreading to vulnerable groups.
Even though vaccines provide good protection against the virus, Bowdish said people with weakened immune systems face serious side effects if infected. She also said that getting the vaccine can help protect children under 12 who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.
“We have a collective responsibility to get vaccinated and protect them,” she said in an email.
In the past, Bernier has flouted health restrictions related to COVID-19 by attending a number of rallies to protest against public health measures. He was arrested by the Manitoba RCMP in June for violating public health orders.
Representatives of the Liberals, Conservatives, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party have all confirmed that their leaders have been fully immunized.
Senior health officials warn of 4th wave
Bernier’s statement follows a warning from Canada’s top health officials that the country could see the start of a fourth wave driven by the more infectious delta variant.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr Theresa Tam said on Friday the severity of the resurgence of the pandemic will largely depend on vaccine coverage, especially as provinces move forward with their plans to reopen.
“I think we’re in a slightly precarious period right now, between these people trying to get vaccinated and reopening,” Tam said.
“As soon as that balance gets down, and it wouldn’t take much with a highly transmissible virus, you’re going to see a slight increase in cases. “
Of the total population eligible to receive a vaccine, 81 percent have received a dose and 66 percent are fully immunized.