U of S surgery professor questions severity of COVID-19 pandemic and safety of vaccines in online video
SASKATOON -- The College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan says it does not support the views of one of its surgery professors who appeared in a video last week questioning the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety and efficacy of vaccines.
Dr. Francis Christian, a surgeon, clinical professor of surgery within the College of Medicine and editor of the Journal of Surgical Humanities, shared his views alongside other Canadian doctors in a video posted to BitChute on June 4.
In the video, Christian said he is a “pro-vaccine” physician but calls the COVID-19 vaccine “an experimental injection” because “it isn’t being made like a vaccine.”
Four COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for emergency use in Canada, including the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines.
According to the Government of Canada website, “only vaccines that are proven to be safe, effective and of high quality are authorized for use in Canada.” It added that all of the approved vaccines have been vigorously tested during their development and carefully reviewed by Health Canada.
DEAN DISAGREES WITH VIDEO
Preston Smith, the dean of the College of Medicine at the U of S, made a blog post Friday, addressing the online video.
In an interview with CTV News, Smith said while the university supports and upholds the right of faculty to freely communicate in the areas of their scholarly work, he does not agree with the statements made by Christian.
“At this point and time, the biggest concern that I have is it could lead to further vaccine hesitancy as people have doubts created by false information,” he said.
Smith, who is also a family physician, said he believes that vaccines are not only safe but “remarkably effective.”
“The reality is that the science that was involved in developing the vaccine and testing the vaccine was all done the way it has always been done. What facilitated the speed was the resources that were thrown at it by many companies, many governments. Anybody can do things faster if they have unlimited resources and that’s how we got this vaccine so fast,” he said.
VACCINES WORK: HEALTH MINISTER
Health Minister Paul Merriman reiterated the effectiveness of vaccines in Tuesday’s COVID-19 update.
“It is now extremely clear that vaccines are slowing the spread of COVID in our province, reducing hospitalizations and saving lives. As our vaccination numbers go up, our case numbers go down,” he said.
Christian is also the director of quality improvement and patient safety in the Department of Surgery at the U of S and at the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).
The SHA said team members can share their personal or private views as long as they clearly identify that it is separate from their role within the health authority.
However, it said it does not support or endorse the opinions that cast doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic.
“This kind of communication feeds conspiracy theories and misinformation, as well as sends the false message that our health care workers at the front line are somehow faking or making up the loss of life and trauma occurring as a result of COVID. This is not only offensive, but dangerous. It publicly downplays the significant risk of harm and death created by community transmission of this virus,” the SHA said in a statement to CTV News.
In the video, Christian also said the public is being “conditioned by fear.”
He criticizes the way COVID-19 cases and deaths are being reported, saying the World Health Organization and news organizations are “peddling nonsense.”
“It was the media pushing this nonsense and the media has been lying ... through its teeth from the beginning,” Christian said in the video.
He then tells people to “be (their) own expert” and turn to “alternative websites” for information.
The SHA said it encourages the public to “seek valid sources of information regarding COVID-19 and vaccinations, such as through the Government of Saskatchewan COVID-19 website, or the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).”
Smith said oftentimes people who come up with these theories “cherry-pick data” and that’s what he believes happened in this video.
“The way (COVID-19) has varied in its impact on populations has been remarkably consistent in terms of cases, hospitalizations, ICUs and deaths, so I just categorically reject some of the stuff that’s been said about the data,” he said.
Smith also offered an apology to people who have been personally affected by COVID-19 and to frontline health care workers.
CTV News reached out to Christian for further comment, but did not hear back.