Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu has apologized for comments she made about vaccines and COVID-19, just one day after leader Erin O’Toole said her statements were “not appropriate.”
During an interview with CTV’s Question Period, Gladu likened COVID-19 to polio — but claimed that the coronavirus doesn’t pose the same “frequency of risk” in terms of deaths or disabilities.
Nearly 30,000 Canadians have died from COVID-19 to date, and more than 1.74 million have been infected.
“I would like to apologize for my inappropriate comments about COVID-19 vaccines during a recent CTV interview,” Gladu said in a Tuesday morning statement.
“Upon reflection, I recognize how dangerous it is to share misinformation about the severity of COVID-19 and the safety and efficacy of vaccines. I retract these comments in full.”
Gladu went on to say that she apologizes “unreservedly” to Canadians, as well as to her fellow Conservatives, for the “distraction” her comments “have created.”
“Vaccines are a safe and effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19 and prevent serious illness. I encourage every Canadian, who is able, to get vaccinated,” Gladu said.
“When it comes to the safety and efficacy of vaccines, it should be physicians and public health experts who advise Canadians, not politicians.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, O’Toole slammed Gladu’s earlier comments, stating that “there’s a big difference between advocating for your constituents who may need reasonable accommodation.”
“It’s very different to cause confusion with respect to the health and well-being of Canadians,” O’Toole said.
“Ms. Gladu’s interview did that yesterday and it’s not appropriate at a time we should be answering questions about vaccine hesitancy, not creating new questions.”
Gladu’s interview highlights a growing rift within the Conservative Party over the issue of vaccines.
An unknown number of Conservatives remain unvaccinated, and Gladu announced last week that a “mini-caucus” of Conservatives plan to advocate for those who lost work because of vaccine mandates.
She has said the group isn’t intended to challenge O’Toole’s leadership and won’t contradict his positions.
Gladu isn’t the only member of the Conservative caucus that has questioned the efficacy of vaccines, contradicting both the science and O’Toole’s repeated assertions that vaccines are safe.
Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis – a former leadership rival and favourite of the social conservative wing of the party – has made posts on social media questioning the efficacy of vaccinating children.
Dean Allison, another Ontario MP, has hosted broadcasts with scientists who compared natural immunity to vaccinations. Allison also sponsored e-petitions on the Parliamentary website that both oppose vaccination mandates and encourage further study of the drug ivermectin.
Health Canada has an entire webpage dedicated to explaining that ivermectin is “not authorized to prevent or treat COVID-19.” It also tells Canadians that “poison centres have seen an increase in reports concerning ivermectin over the summer.”
Canadians who have purchased ivermectin with the intention of using it to treat COVID-19 should “discard it immediately,” according to the website.
O’Toole, meanwhile, says his newly appointed shadow cabinet will be ready “to address vaccine hesitancy” — even when it emerges within his own party.
“I’ve been very clear for many weeks that when Parliament returns, all members of our caucus, MPs and Senators, will respect and follow the rules here on Parliament Hill,” he said.
“Our shadow ministers will be ready on day one, and will be ready to address vaccine hesitancy and the other aspects of this pandemic that are still gripping the country.”
–with files from The Canadian Press