Controversy over vaccine comments was ‘manufactured story,’ Manitoba education minister says

By | September 8, 2020

Manitoba’s education minister on Tuesday dismissed controversy over a social media post he made last week, saying the post noting the right to refuse vaccines was intended to educate.

“It was a manufactured story,” Kelvin Goertzen said Tuesday during a news conference about Manitoba’s first day of school.

Goertzen, who was formerly the province’s health minister, was regularly the first in Manitoba to get his seasonal flu shot when he served in that role, he said. He also pointed to the Progressive Conservative government’s recent plan to increase access to a high-dose flu vaccine.

“I have a good track record in promoting vaccinations, including with my own family, but I clearly believe that education is critical when it comes to vaccination,” he said.

“I don’t think it is controversial to restate the position of every government in Canada, including the federal government, while I’m promoting and encouraging people to get vaccination.”

Goertzen, the minister in charge of running flu clinics in Manitoba schools, said his post echoed federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s statement the federal government wouldn’t force Canadians to get a COVID-19 shot, as vaccinations are not federally mandated. Some provinces, however, require vaccinations before children can enrol in school.

His intention was to educate while promoting vaccines, he said.

WATCH | Manitoba education minister defends post saying vaccination not mandatory

Manitoba Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen says he was aiming to educate people when he shared a CNN story on vaccines online while noting the right to refuse vaccination. 0:38

Goertzen came under fire last week after he shared a CNN article about plans to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., with a comment that the right to refuse vaccines should be protected.

“For those who refuse to get a vaccine, that is absolutely your right! And it should be protected,” Goertzen wrote in the post on Wednesday.

The post continued, “For everyone else…” before sharing a link to the CNN report.

Critics, including Manitoba Opposition Leader Wab Kinew, said the post was problematic and could be seized upon by anti-vaxxers.

(Kelvin Goertzen/Facebook)

On Tuesday, Goertzen said his approach to encouraging public buy-in on government initiatives like vaccines is information-based.

“The most powerful tool that you have isn’t the force of law but education and awareness,” he said.

“Where you can provide strong evidence and strong education … that is ultimately how you get people to buy into something.”

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