COVID-19: Kitchener councillor clarifies ‘Canadian guinea pigs’ comment

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A Kitchener city councillor says he is far from an anti-vaxxer after using the term “Canadian guinea pigs” to describe those awaiting a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine during a city council meeting on Monday.

“I’ve been having vaccinations all my life, I’ve got four kids and 14 grandchildren and vaccinations are a way of life and we’re all lucky and healthy,” Ward 3 Coun. John Gazzola told Global News on Tuesday afternoon.

Read more: Medical experts calling on Ontario to rethink when and how 2nd COVID-19 vaccine doses are given

He also noted that he himself is a so-called “Canadian guinea pig” as he is currently also awaiting a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Gazzola said he was upset about the lack of information that is currently being provided on COVID-19 vaccines.

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He said that after Mayor Berry Vrbanovic provided council with an update, he was simply wondering when elderly people were going to get a second shot, although maybe he could have been more direct.

“You’ve reported on a lot of things to do with the vaccinations. I’m just wondering where the report is, where things stand as far as the second dose for Canadians, the Canadian guinea pigs?” was what Gazzola asked on Monday.

Vrbanovic immediately chastised Gazzola, responding with: “That’s not an appropriate term to use by a person in a position such as ours when we are trying to ensure that the public continues to have faith in the in the health-care systems and the provincial science that’s guiding the work that they’re doing.”

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A short time later, Ward 1 Coun. Scott Davey said he also took issue with Gazzola’s comment.

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“I can’t let the ‘guinea pig’ comment slide, perhaps like to clarify or retract that specific comment because comments like that worry me,” Davey said.

“Because Coun. Gazzola, you’re a person of power and people trust you, and if one person doesn’t get the vaccine because you threw out a term like guinea pig, that’s on you.”

He then reiterated his ask of Gazzola to clarify or retract his statement but his fellow council member took a pass.

“I said something. Once something’s been said, it’s not really possible to take it back,” Gazzola responded.
“I said it and that is that will stand.”

On Tuesday morning, Gazzola said he heard from a lot of people who shared similar concerns about a lack of information surrounding the issue.

“The biggest commentary is not to do with the value or the problems of vaccination,” he explained.

“It’s just the misinformation or disinformation or lack of information and that’s all I’m pushing for.”

Read more: ‘Completely wrong’: Anger over COVID-19 vaccine second dose delay for seniors

Gazzola says people have been asking him if he knows anything about vaccines that they don’t.

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“No, I don’t know anything,” he said.

“I like to say I’ve been having vaccinations all my life. I’ve never had any problems with them, and I totally support it.”

The councillor said he gets upset with people who are against vaccines because of the positive history of vaccines.

“Our experience tells us that it’s a good thing,” he explained.

“I know I can remember over the years the sicknesses like polio, things like that that we don’t have now because of vaccines. So there’s no question about vaccines.”

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