Toronto city councillor apologizes for sharing misleading vaccine information
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam attends the unveiling of the Humanity Art Installation outside Union Station in Toronto on Wednesday Sept. 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/George Pimentel
TORONTO -- A Toronto city councillor who serves as vice-chair of the city's board of health is apologizing for spreading misinformation about vaccines in a column she wrote for a Toronto newspaper recently.
Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam penned an op-ed for the Toronto Sun on Nov. 18, urging people not to judge those who choose not to get vaccinated.
In the column, Wong-Tam said that according to public health statements, vaccinated people spread COVID-19 to others just as easily as unvaccinated people and cited Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore as advocating that natural immunity be considered as part of Ontario’s reopening plan.
The councillor was slammed for the comments on social media over the weekend.
In a statement issued Monday evening, Wong-Tam apologized for sharing incorrect information.
“When I wrote an opinion article last week, it was a genuine effort to promote dialogue and civility in an increasingly polarized debate over public health measures during the pandemic,” Wong-Tam wrote. “In the process, I unfortunately made an honest mistake with the information I shared from an August 2021 memo from the Chief Medical Officer of Health. That memo is outdated and the context in which I shared it was misleading and left the wrong impression. For that, I am very sorry.”
The Ward 13 councillor said that while she herself is vaccinated, her intention in writing the column was to share a personal story about her parents that highlighted why some people might not have chosen to get vaccinated and to share concerns around stigmatizing people who are not vaccinated.
She went on to say that she believes in vaccination and encourages others to get their shots.
“In short, I believe the scientific evidence is clear: vaccinations are an essential tool in ending the pandemic. Everyone who is able should get their shot,” Wong-Tam wrote. “The more vaccinated people we have, the less transmission we have. I regret that my inclusion of inaccurate information distracted from my main reason for writing the article.”
She reiterated her belief that those “who have genuine concerns should be treated with respect, not disdain” and said she remains concerned about the possible effects of vaccine mandates on BIPOC communities.
Wong-Tam said she won't be extending her role as vice chair of the health board after her role expires in December, but indicated that she would like to remain a general member of the board “should my fellow council members agree.”
The Toronto Board of Health is responsible for overseeing and directing the work of Toronto Public Health (TPH).
Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa, who heads TPH, has repeatedly stressed that vaccination is the best way to protect oneself and others from the dangers associated with COVID-19.
Toronto Public Health could not immediately provide a comment Monday evening on the information shared by Wong-Tam.