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COVID-19

Defence chief was warned about legality of military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate: memo

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OTTAWA — The commander of the Canadian Armed Forces was warned by his senior legal and medical advisers last year that requiring all troops to be vaccinated against COVID-19 was unnecessary ⁠ — and that doing so “may not constitute a legal order.”

The message was delivered to chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre in an August 2021 briefing note, two months before then-defence minister Harjit Sajjan directed him to impose a vaccine requirement for all troops.

In two separate interviews with The Canadian Press, the defence chief described the briefing note as one of several legal opinions received before handing down his order in October 2021.

“We get lots of legal opinions out there, but we can’t allow one legal opinion from stopping us from doing the right thing,” Eyre said. “And here, the right thing is ensuring our operational readiness so that we can protect Canada and Canadian interests around the world.”

However, Catherine Christensen, the Edmonton lawyer who obtained the briefing note through the Access to Information Act, argued the document shows Eyre’s order was driven by politics.

The Aug. 27, 2021, briefing note was presented to Eyre by Maj.-Gen. Trevor Cadieu, who was one of the defence chief’s strategic advisers at the time. It was prepared “in close collaboration” with senior medical, legal, political and public affairs officers and it incorporates legal analysis from the Department of Justice.

Citing concerns about a fourth wave of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant, the advisers noted the benefits of vaccination in preventing the spread of disease, adding vaccine mandates “may be effective in increasing coverage rates.”

They also described the purpose of a broader federal vaccine mandate would be “not only to protect public health, but also for the federal government to demonstrate leadership and assist in economic recovery.”

On Aug. 13, 2021, the Liberal government had announced a vaccine mandate for federal public servants, as well as workers and travellers in federally regulated transportation sectors.

The memo suggested a universal mandate was unnecessary to protect the health of the Canadian Armed Forces, given that more than 90 per cent of Armed Forces personnel were already vaccinated at that time.

The early analysis noted “the level of legal risk” for a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy would depend on the final details, as well as “the strength of the public health rationale and how the policy will be implemented.”

It said that would include any accommodations and mitigation measures for those either unable or, notably, unwilling to be vaccinated, which it recommend to help defend against Charter challenges.

The advisers also warned that Armed Forces members could try to push back against the vaccine mandate on safety grounds. At that time, Health Canada had authorized COVID-19 inoculations under a special interim order due to the emergency nature of the pandemic.

“Prior to full approval of the vaccines under Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations, CAF members ordered to receive COVID-19 vaccination might argue that they are being ordered to accept a new and potentially dangerous medical substance into their body,” the note said.

The interim order, which expired in September 2021, allowed the government to authorize vaccines faster than normal where the benefits were deemed to outweigh the risks.

In their note, Eyre’s advisers cited the case of former Sgt. Mike Kipling, who was charged in 1998 under Section 126 of the National Defence Act, which allows the military to charge members who “wilfully and without reasonable excuse” refuse an order to get a vaccine.

Kipling had been ordered to take an anthrax vaccine while serving in Kuwait, but refused because he considered the drug unsafe. The vaccine was unlicensed for use in Canada. A military judged eventually ruled in favour of Kipling, agreeing his Charter rights were infringed. The Forces appealed and a new court martial was ordered, but the military decided to drop the proceedings.

Eyre was told military personnel who refused a vaccination order could be similarly charged under military law, but “there is a significant risk in ordering CAF members to accept COVID-19 vaccination, as it may not constitute a legal order.”

The memo also said a mandate for the Armed Forces “would not only be punitive in nature, but would also be counter to the successful efforts made to date to encourage maximum voluntary uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine.” The advisers suggested the military share its voluntary approach with other federal departments as a “best practice.”

The advisers concluded by expressing support for the federal government’s intent to bring in a proof-of-vaccination policy, but again cautioned that the rollout would need “prudent planning” that kept in mind the challenges they described.

Eyre first ordered all Armed Forces members to attest they had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on Oct. 6, 2021.

Rather than charging those who refused to comply, the military forced about 300 non-compliant Armed Forces members out of uniform using an administrative process called a 5F release that declares them unfit for service.

About 100 troops have left voluntarily. Hundreds more had permanent censures put on their files. Outside the military, most federal employees were allowed to go on leave without pay and returned to their positions after the mandate was suspended in June.

The Armed Forces’ vaccination policy does allow exemptions for medical reasons, religious beliefs or any other grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, to be determined on a case-by-case basis. In late April, a parliamentary committee heard that more than 1,300 members had requested exemptions, but nearly 1,000 had been denied.

Retired lieutenant-colonel Rory Fowler, who is now a lawyer specializing in military cases, said the decision to use 5F releases instead of charging unvaccinated troops means the Armed Forces doesn’t have to defend the legality of the order in court.

And while troops can file a grievance, it currently takes about three years for a case to be heard — with the defence chief serving as the final authority.

Christensen, who is representing a number of those unvaccinated troops who lost their jobs, said she believes the briefing note explains why the military is using 5F releases instead of charging those who refuse to comply with Eyre’s order.

“They didn’t want their mandate or their order for everyone to be vaccinated to be challenged in court,” said Christensen. She said Eyre had the power “to order everyone to be vaccinated. Full stop. Then if they did not want to be vaccinated, they had to come up with a reasonable excuse at court martial. … (Eyre) didn’t do that.”

Fowler has previously raised concerns about the military trying to punish soldiers without involving the courts in other situations, and believes there are legitimate questions about the legality of the vaccine order.

“What I believe is it should be tested,” he said.

Eyre and his office have not said exactly why that decision was made. His office said in a statement that “administrative measures and the administrative review process was considered the most appropriate approach.”

Asked if the decision to avoid the courts was the result of concerns about the legality of his order, Eyre said: “Not at all. We had numerous legal opinions.”

The defence chief also said that while Sajjan directed him to include the Armed Forces in the broader federal government’s mandate, “I was in agreement at that time, I issued the order. … Make no mistake, it’s my order.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2022.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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Allow unvaccinated Canadians to cross U.S. border, Poilievre asks President Joe Biden

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U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on, during a welcoming ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, March 24, 2023. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says allowing Canadians who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 to cross into the United States was among issues he raised with President Joe Biden. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

By Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Friday he asked President Joe Biden to remove the U.S. government’s requirement that Canadians be vaccinated for COVID-19 before crossing the border.

He told reporters after their meeting that American citizens are no longer required to have their shots and Canada allows unvaccinated Americans to visit.

“There are millions of good, decent, honourable people who, through a personal medical decision, are discriminated against at the border,” Poilievre said.

“I encouraged the president to lift those restrictions to allow them freedom of mobility.”

Poilievre won the leadership of his party a little more than six months ago by mounting a vocal opposition to COVID-19 health restrictions, including mask and vaccine mandates, but he has since focused his message on cost-of-living issues.

He met with Biden on Parliament Hill Friday during the president’s 27-hour visit to the Canadian capital, and later shared a photo of the two online.

Michael Ignatieff was the last Opposition leader to have face time with a U.S president. The former Liberal leader met with former President Barack Obama in 2009. It happened at the airport.

Poilievre said Friday he found Biden wants to be a “friendly” and “decent” neighbour to Canada, and on a personal level, he said he told the president they share Irish heritage.

He said they discussed the need for Canada to bolster its defence systems and “bring fairness” to workers by seeing the U.S. exempt Canada from its Buy American policies.

The Tory leader also said he expressed a need for Biden to axe tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber, arguing that the long-standing dispute saw a brief reprieve under Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.

“I don’t believe that Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau has pushed and fought on behalf of Canadians,” he said.

Before the meeting, Poilievre had shared some unscripted moments with the leader of the free world.

As he stood in a receiving line of Canadian politicians from all parties who were greeting Biden upon his arrival at Parliament Hill, Poilievre introduced himself as the “Leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.”

That prompted Biden to question, still shaking Poilievre’s hand: “Loyal opposition?”

Poilievre assured him that yes, “we believe that opposition is an act of loyalty in our system.”

Biden chuckled, patting Poilievre on the arm.

“We do, too, unfortunately,” he said, chuckling.

Later, while addressing the House of Commons, Biden noted that both he and Trudeau appointed cabinets that were half women, making them the first in their respective countries to do so.

Many in the chamber broke out in applause.

Biden noticed that Poilievre and the Opposition Conservatives were not quick to rise, and quipped: “Even if you don’t agree, guys, I’d stand up,” which Poilievre and others then did.

Asked afterwards about that interaction, Poilievre said only: “We support gender equality for all Canadians.”

Poilievre was on the guestlist for a dinner with Biden Friday evening, along with other government ministers, officials and celebrities.

The invitation process came with a dash of partisanship.

Earlier in the day, staff in Poilievre’s office were left scratching their heads when they said it had not received an invite from Trudeau’s office to attend, and asserted that any suggestion he had refused the invitation was false.

The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed it had sent Poilievre notice of the dinner — but the invitation went to a personal email account that notifies senders it is not monitored.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2023.

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Brownstone Institute

Eye Protection Wasn’t Misdirection

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Megan MansellMEGAN MANSELL

“If you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it.” ~ Anthony Fauci, July 30th, 2020

We had heard enough from Fauci by the time this comment was made in mid-2020 to begin automatically tuning out his frequently contradictory advice. What if we had given weight to this comment and explored why he began recommending goggles (yet never donned them himself)?

While I’m not surprised that the inner anatomy of the face including ocular ducts and connectivity within structures aren’t common knowledge, I expected more of a reaction from the medical community regarding Fauci’s push for eye protection. Not only do medical professionals take extensive coursework on human anatomy — they are required to meet annually with an Industrial Hygienist for fit tested, hazard-specific kit for each exposure setting , including ocular protection. This testing process requires going into detail about each exposure setting and required donning and donning practices within the scope of their professional duties.

Instead of elaborating on his recommendation, Fauci just publicly hushed on the issue and folks carried on, obediently masked up yet entirely neglectful of their nasolacrimal ducts. Shame, shame.

These are the structures of the lacrimal apparatus connecting ocular and nasal pathways. Basically, the eye drains into the nasal cavity. None of the talking heads of the medical community ever seem to bring up that these parts of the body connect with one another, and while we hear about masks ad nauseam three entire years after the onset of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, no one is arguing with strangers on the internet about goggles.

Bernie Sanders was recently praised for being the only person at the February, 2023 State of the Union donning a (sub-grade, non-mitigating) respirator, but eye spy something fishy. It was noted that he kept removing his glasses, as they were fogging up.

Those who have donned respirators have experienced that exhale emissions are generally redirected out of the nose bridge (or out of side gaps if improperly sealed). This is the exhale emission plume create by a fitted, unvalved N95 respirator:

This plume of warm, moist respiratory emissions is what causes glasses to fog. This is precisely why I continue to argue that masks are NOT source control for respiratory aerosols, because these apparatuses are not designed nor intended to protect others from your emissions, but solely for protection of the wearer. The ASTM agrees with me on this matter:

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard Specification for Barrier Face Coverings F3502-21 Note 2 states, “There are currently no established methods for measuring outward leakage from a barrier face covering, medical mask, or respirator. Nothing in this standard addresses or implies a quantitative assessment of outward leakage and no claims can be made about the degree to which a barrier face covering reduces emission of human-generated particles.”

Additionally, Note 5 states, “There are currently no specific accepted techniques that are available to measure outward leakage from a barrier face covering or other products. Thus, no claims may be made with respect to the degree of source control offered by the barrier face covering based on the leakage assessment.”

So does it matter if your neighbor’s exhale emissions are directed in your face for the duration of your 6-hour flight?

Absolutely. Imagine sitting between these two fine fellas with your eyes exposed, and their emission plumes directed right in your face.

In mitigation of aerosol hazards, eye protection is a standard part of required kit, because those from the correct domain of expertise, Industrial Hygiene, know enough about human anatomy to remember the interconnectivity of facial structures.

Ocular transmission of SARS-CoV-2

There has been a great deal of focus on respiratory protection since the start of the pandemic, but ocular transmission was already established for SARS-CoV-1.

“SARS-CoV-1 has been shown to be transmitted through direct contact or with droplet or aerosolized particle contact with the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth. Indeed, during the 2003 SARS-CoV-1 outbreak in Toronto, health care workers who failed to wear eye protection in caring for patients infected with SARS-CoV-1 had a higher rate of seroconversion.”

We are beginning to see mounting research on ocular transmission for SARS-CoV-2 emerge, as well, traveling through the nasolacrimal duct from the eye, draining into the sinus cavity.

There is evidence that SARS-CoV-2 may either directly infect cells on the ocular surface, or virus can be carried by tears through the nasolacrimal duct to infect the nasal or gastrointestinal epithelium.”

“The nasolacrimal system provides an anatomic connection between the ocular surface and the upper respiratory tract. When a drop is instilled into the eye, even though some of it is absorbed by the cornea and the conjunctiva, most of it is drained into the nasal cavity through the nasolacrimal canal and is subsequently transferred to the upper respiratory or the gastrointestinal tract.”

SARS-CoV-2 on the ocular surface can be transferred to different systems along with tears through the nasolacrimal route.”

Seldom did ocular exposure result in eye infection, while systemic infections occurred regularly. Ocular exposure cannot always be determined as the point of contact for this reason, as an eye infection does not always coincide with systemic infection.

The nasolacrimal duct is often discussed in ocular transmission research, but this is not the sole ocular transmission pathway discussed.

“There are two pathways by which ocular exposure could lead to systemic transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. (1) Direct infection of ocular tissues including cornea, conjunctiva, lacrimal gland, meibomian glands from virus exposure and (2) virus in the tears, which then goes through the nasolacrimal duct to infect the nasal or gastrointestinal epithelium.”

Additionally, research is being conducted on the usage of ocular secretions in transmitting SARS-CoV-2.

“Then here comes the question, whether SARS-CoV-2 detected in conjunctival secretions and tears is an infectious virus? Colavita et al inoculated Vero E6 cells with the first RNA positive ocular sample obtained from a COVID-19 patient. Cytopathic effect was observed 5 days post-inoculation, and viral replication was confirmed by real-time RT-PCR in spent cell medium. Hui et al also isolated SARS-CoV-2 virus from a nasopharyngeal aspirate specimen and a throat swab of a COVID-19 patient. The isolated virus not only infected human conjunctival explants but also infected more extensively and reached higher infectious viral titers than SARS-CoV.”

According to this study, ocular secretions were highly infectious.

“The ocular surface can serve as a reservoir and source of contagion for SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted to the ocular surface through hand-eye contact and aerosols, and then transfer to other systems through nasolacrimal route and hematogenous metastasis. The possibility of ocular transmission of SARS-CoV-2 cannot be ignored.”

This paper also has a focus on aerosols coming into contact with ocular mucosa.

“Once aerosols form, SARS-CoV-2 can bind to the ACE2 on the exposed ocular mucosa to cause infection. In order to prevent aerosols from contacting the eye surface, eye protection cannot be ignored.”

An additional area explored in this analysis discusses rhesus macaques wherein solely those inoculated through the ocular route became infected.

“If the ocular surface is the portal for SARS-CoV-2 to enter, where does the virus transfer after entering? An animal experiment reveals the possible nasolacrimal routes of SARS-CoV-2 transfer from the ocular surface. Five rhesus macaques were inoculated with 1×106 50% tissue-culture infectious doses of SARS-CoV-2. Only in the conjunctival swabs of rhesus macaques inoculated via conjunctival route could the SARS-CoV-2 be detected. Conjunctival swabs of the rhesus macaques that were inoculated via intragastric or intratracheal route were negative. Three days post conjunctival inoculation, rhesus macaques presented mild interstitial pneumonia. Autopsies showed that SARS-CoV-2 was detectable in the nasolacrimal system tissues, including the lacrimal gland, conjunctiva, nasal cavity, and throat, which connected the eyes and respiratory tract on anatomy.”

An additional macaque study had similar findings.

“Deng et al. showed that SARS-CoV-2 infection could be induced by ocular surface inoculation in an experimental animal model using macaques. Although the researchers detected the virus in conjunctival swabs only on the first day after inoculation, they continued to detect it in nasal and throat swabs 1-7 days after the inoculation. Their findings demonstrated that the viral load in the airway mucosa was much higher than that in the ocular surface. They euthanized and necropsied one of the conjunctival inoculated-animals and found that the virus had spread to the nasolacrimal system and ocular tissue, nasal cavity, pharynx, trachea, tissues in the oral cavity, tissues in the lower-left lobe of the lung, inguinal and perirectal lymph node, stomach, duode-num, cecum, and ileum. They also found a specific IgG antibody, indicating that the animal was infected with SARS-CoV-2 via the ocular surface route.”

While the nasolacrimal route is the primary focus in most current research, the blood-retinal barrier (BRB) is also discussed as a possible pathway.

“Once it reaches the ocular surface, SARS-CoV-2 could invade the conjunctiva and iris under the mediation of ACE2 and CD147, another possible receptor for SARS-CoV-2 on host cells. De Figueiredo et al described the following possible pathways. After reaching blood capillaries and then choroid plexus, the virus reaches the blood-retinal barrier (BRB), which expresses both ACE2 and CD147 in retinal pigment epithelial cells and blood vessel endothelial cells. Since CD147 mediates the breakdown of neurovascular blood barriers, the virus can cross the BRB and enter into blood.”

RSV

There has been a push recently to bring back masks for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), especially in schools, as this pathogen largely impacts youth populations, yet ocular transmission is a proven method of infectivity for RSV.

In this paper, intranasal dosing of the given pathogen resulted in onset of illness for nearly all respiratory pathogens studied. It reviews transmission routes and minimum infective dose for Influenza, Rhinovirus, Coxsackievirus, Adenovirus, RSV, Enteric Viruses, Rotavirus, Norovirus, and Echovirus, including ocular transmission.

“The infective doses of rhinoviruses in the nose and eyes are thought to be comparable because the virus does not infect the eyes but appears to travel from the eyes to the nasal mucosa via the tear duct.”

“Hall et al. (1981) investigated the infectivity of RSV A2 strain administered by nose, eye, and mouth in adult volunteers. They reported that the virus may infect by eye or nose and both routes appear to be equally sensitive. A dose of 1.6 × 105 TCID50 infected three of the four volunteers given either into the eyes or nose while only one out of the eight were infected via mouth inoculation, and this was thought to be due to secondary spread of the virus.”

“RSV A2 had poor infectivity when administered via the mouth but was shown to infect by eye and nose and both routes appear to be equally sensitive to the virus.”

“Bynoe et al. (1961) found that colds could be produced almost as readily by applying virus by nasal and conjunctival swabs as by giving nasal drops to volunteers.”

Would masks save schools from RSV circulation? Most kids have robust immune systems, with a very, very small percentage of the youth population undergoing chemotherapy or taking immunosuppressives, who usually are not on campus for in-person learning. But for those seeming protection and in-person instruction, we must not set them up for immune bombardment by offering a false sense of security while feigning ignorance of other viable transmission routes. Masks are not the answer.

Summary

Ocular transmission of respiratory pathogens hasn’t been a focal point of study, but with other pathogens and mounting research on SARS-CoV-2 showing such ease of systemic onset for this transmission route, more attention should be given to this area of research.

Consider all of the people you’ve seen donning masks or respirators over these past three years, assured in the merit of their virtue. How many still got sick? Did you ever once see someone donning goggles? Are we ever going to get around to discussing exhaustion of the hierarchy of controls, or are actual mitigating measures too taboo, too fringe?

TLDR: Ocular transmission is a viable method of transmission for SARS-CoV-2. Masks are not source control. Even N95s aren’t going to fix this. And all child masks are unregulated, untested, unethical, and unsafe, with zero efficacy, fit, term of wear, or medical clearance standards, and with ocular transmission being a proven route of transmission for RSV, masks aren’t going to fix that issue, either.

Author

  • Megan Mansell

    Megan Mansell is a former district education director over special populations integration, serving students who are profoundly disabled, immunocompromised, undocumented, autistic, and behaviorally challenged; she also has a background in hazardous environs PPE applications. She is experienced in writing and monitoring protocol implementation for immunocompromised public sector access under full ADA/OSHA/IDEA compliance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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