Toronto politician leaving health board after backlash over vaccine comments
A prominent Toronto politician has decided to step down from the city's Board of Health after some controversial comments she made about vaccines.
Ward 13 city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam recently wrote an op-ed for the Toronto Sun in which she talked about how to develop compassion for the difference of opinions between the unvaccinated and vaccinated.
I wanted to talk about how we can continue to build trust across different and diverse communities. I was sharing my perspective and lived experience and was not offering any medical advice. I’m truly sorry this caused any confusion or upset.— Kristyn Wong-Tam 黃慧文 (@kristynwongtam) November 20, 2021
The column, published November 18, faced a great deal of backlash from people assuming the city councillor was supportive of anti-vaxxers and spreading misinformation.
I believe that was your goal but it was definitely not met. IMO you have an obligation to promote vaccines. As a health care professional, so do I. To support anything other than vaccines in the context of a pandemic is irresponsible.— Joyce (proudly triple vaxxed) Rankin (@Joyce504941) November 20, 2021
"Those who are vaccinated can still get COVID-19 and can still transmit it to others just as easily as those who are unvaccinated," Wong-Tam wrote.
What part of "vaccinated people are as likely to spread it as unvaccinated" is a personal lived experience though? It's medical misinformation, and a favourite one of antivaxers at that— ℳatt (@matttomic) November 20, 2021
This statement in particular was controversial to many.
Wong-Tam backed up the comment by tweeting a memo from Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health.
On August 31, 2021, the Chief Medical Officer of Health sent a memo to public health officials citing, "fully vaccinated individuals have similar levels of infectiousness as in unvaccinated cases." If this information is wrong or incomplete, it should be clarified soon. pic.twitter.com/J0JjytldPv— Kristyn Wong-Tam 黃慧文 (@kristynwongtam) November 20, 2021
However, Wong-Tam took this back in a public statement she made on Monday, saying the information in the memo from August was outdated and shared within the wrong context.
"I regret that my inclusion of inaccurate information distracted from my main reason for writing the article," said Wong-Tam.
Please read my full statement regarding an opinion article I wrote last week: https://t.co/jPM5A1Q74J— Kristyn Wong-Tam 黃慧文 (@kristynwongtam) November 22, 2021
The councillor went on to say that she still believes the science is clear behind vaccines and that everyone who is able to should get their shot.
She also reiterated her thoughts about labelling people who have yet to get their vaccine.
"Not everyone who has delayed getting the vaccine is a rabid 'anti-vaxxer.' People who have genuine concerns should be treated with respect, not disdain. Yelling at each other does not help," said Wong-Tam.
Despite apologizing for misinforming people, many Torontonians were furious about the outcome of the article.
Because of your platform, you have a responsibility of clarifying information like this - that can, at the very least, sow mistrust in public health, and add to the lives taken by the misinformation pandemic. Reaching out to a physician would have been helpful.— Samira Jeimy (@DrSamiraJeimy) November 20, 2021
Others talked about how Wong-Tam's column caused more harm than help.
Very disappointing. As someone who voted for you this is not at all what I expected. There are so many pressing issues in our community that it's mind boggling to imagine lending your time to something like this that actually hurts more than it helps.— Balsamico Di Moderna He/Him (@IAMFORTUNATO) November 20, 2021
The councillor's term as Vice-Chair of Toronto Board of Health ends in December. Although she has decided not to continue, Wong-Tam says she's still willing to be a part of the board as a general member.
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