Former head of Sask. vaccine lab questions leadership of chief medical health officer

·2 min read
Andy Potter, former CEO of VIDO-InterVac, is now a professor at the University of Saskatchewan.  (Submitted by Andrew Potter - image credit)
Andy Potter, former CEO of VIDO-InterVac, is now a professor at the University of Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Andrew Potter - image credit)

The former head of the province's chief vaccine research lab is questioning what it would take for Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer to step down.

On Sunday, Andy Potter, former CEO of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), wrote a Twitter post asking questions about whether the provincial government is ignoring advice from Dr. Saqib Shahab and, if that was true, how long he intends to stay in the position.

"If one assumes that Dr Shahab has been providing valid medical advice to the Government and they have not acted on it, at what stage does integrity kick in and he resigns?" read the post.

"How many hospitalizations/deaths does it take? Serious question."

In an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning, Potter said he was spurred to write the post after a letter was sent out by medical health officers in the province last week.

Among other requests, the health officers asked the Ministry of Health to implement mandatory vaccinations for all health-care workers and people wanting to enter non-essential businesses, as well as enforced masking in indoor spaces.

"There's been no public response to what was a very public letter," said Potter, who is currently a senior industrial research chair in vaccine development at the University of Saskatchewan.

"I think that one has to question whether Dr. Shahab agrees with the contents. If not, why not? And if so, why have there been no measures implemented?"

Potter says he's very concerned with the province's direction when it comes to COVID-19. On Tuesday, the province reported its seven-day average of new cases had reached 350 per day.

Potter says he is not suggesting that Shahab resign but is questioning the province's COVID-19 strategy and is concerned about current trends.

He said the provincial government needs to have a better immunization strategy, focusing on groups who still haven't been vaccinated.

Potter said there also needs to be much more testing done in the province as well as contact tracing. He pointed to Singapore, which sent COVID testing kits to every household in the country.

Ultimately, he said, Shahab needs to do a better job of showing a plan to people in Saskatchewan.

"Communication is key to leadership," he said.

"I think we need to see a little bit more communication coming out and not a press conference that's done grudgingly when people start complaining."

Only 294 vaccinations were given Monday. That's the lowest number since the province began offering vaccinations widely.

About 87 per cent of the new cases were in people who had not been fully vaccinated.

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