Alberta Premier Jason Kenney‘s imposition of COVID-19 vaccine mandate and other public health measures, along with the province’s desire for equalization changes, are what “derailed” his leadership, suggests leadership rival Danielle Smith.
In an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Smith said Kenney’s decisions to put in place public health measures as COVID-19 spiked were a miscalculation that led younger voters who normally vote conservative to draw “a line in the sand.”
“That brought out a lot of mums and dads in their 30s and 40s who said, ‘We’ve got to do something different here.’ And I think the premier maybe miscalculated when he brought in vaccine passports after saying he wasn’t going to,” Smith said.
She added she believes many Albertans feel he also hasn’t taken the referendum to push for changes to the equalization formula seriously enough.
When asked about Kenney’s decision to bring in vaccine mandates, which public health experts had recommended at the time, she claimed: “We saw very early on the vaccination wears off” and that people “could still get and transmit, get very sick even if you were vaccinated.”
That is inaccurate.
The variant currently circulating is Omicron, and a subvariant of that known as BA.2. These variants are better at evading the immune systems of people who are vaccinated, so the vaccines protect less against infection — that’s why there’s been a rise in what’s known as breakthrough cases in vaccinated people.
However, the Public Health Agency of Canada said as recently as this month that even the original two doses of vaccine still have “good effectiveness” against severe outcomes from all variants. With a booster, the effectiveness of vaccines against severe outcomes rises to over 90 per cent.
Vaccine mandates and the broad swaths of public health measures put in place during the pandemic all share the same goals: to reduce the risk of overloading the health-care system, which is what happened in many areas such as Italy and New York City during earlier waves of COVID-19.
In Canada, 81.6 per cent of the total population has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. That rises to 86 per cent for the population that is actually eligible for a shot — meaning people over the age of five years old.
Smith said she believes people who have gotten COVID-19 should be allowed to go to restaurants and get on planes because they have been exposed to the virus already. She added she thinks the province should have taken a similar approach to U.S. states like Florida, Texas or South Dakota.
In Alberta, 87 per cent of residents over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated, representing 77 per cent of the total population of the province, which has seen a total of 4,452 deaths due to COVID-19.
In Florida, 67 per cent of the total population is fully vaccinated with two doses, while that stands at 61.2 per cent in Texas and 61.8 per cent in South Dakota, according to the Mayo Clinic.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 74,329 deaths due to COVID-19 in Florida since Jan. 21, 2020. That number is 86,750 in Texas for the same time period and 2,919 in South Dakota.
The latter has a population of 879,336 compared to Alberta’s 4.4 million yet has seen one in roughly 303 residents die from COVID-19, while the population death rate in Alberta is 100 out of 100,000 people.
When COVID-19 deaths stood at roughly 900,000 during the Omicron surge in February, an NBC News tally of state vaccination rates and virus deaths showed states with low vaccination rates were seeing surging deaths attributed to the virus.
Four of the five states that had led the tally at the time had vaccination rates under 60 per cent.
On May 12, the U.S. marked one million deaths as a result of COVID-19.