A Canadian government epidemiologist tasked with reviewing the scientific COVID-19 literature testified in court that little information is available on the impacts of vaccination on in-flight transmission of the virus.
“There aren’t many studies that look at vaccination status, most of the research that has been done was done before widespread vaccination,” said Dr. Lisa Waddell of the Emerging Sciences Group at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
Waddell also said she was not aware of whether the Canadian government undertook its own independent study to assess the impacts of vaccination on in-flight transmission.
Waddell testified as a government witness on May 31 in defense of the government’s travel vaccination mandate. The Liberals suspended the travel mandate (banning international arrivals) on June 20, warning it could be reinstated depending on circumstances.
Four lawsuits are currently challenging the mandate in federal court and are being heard concurrently. While the government wants the court to declare the challenge moot, the applicants still want the case to be heard by a judge.
Waddell filed an affidavit in support of the government’s position, highlighting its criticisms of the expert reports submitted by the applicants.
For example, she says an expert report on in-flight transmission failed to mention an October 2021 study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine, titled “An outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant on an airplane: vaccinated air passengers are more protected than unvaccinated.
“Vaccination was suggested to have a protective effect (hazard ratio: 0.33, 95% CI: 0.08–1.43) but was not statistically significant in multivariate analysis,” said the study investigating a June 2021 flight from South Africa to China.
Waddel said most of the studies she reviewed have shortcomings, with a “high risk of bias due to their retrospective investigations of in-flight transmission.”
“We also have a number of simulation-type studies that are obviously based on a lot of assumptions of what was known at the time,” Waddell said.
Waddell and her team were responsible for reviewing and evaluating the evidence related to airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.
They summarized their findings in the November 25, 2021 report, “Evidence on the risk of in-flight transmission of COVID-19: update 3.”
“Through the revisions, the risk of infection during a flight is low,” the report said.
“A meta-analysis found that from January to June 2020, the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 in an airplane cabin was estimated to be 1 case for every 1.7 million travelers.”
Waddell testified that she considers it low risk.
The report also states that “airborne particulate counts in airplanes are lower than in retail/food stores, restaurants, office spaces, homes and other forms of transportation.”
The PSC official confirmed during questioning that no further analysis was done after November 25.
Given the time elapsed between the release of the report in November and her cross-examination in May, Waddell was asked if any new studies examining the effects of vaccination on in-flight transmission had been published.
“So we asked to see what had been published since the year [report] … And there don’t seem to be any more statistics on vaccination as a potential protective effect against in-flight transmission,” she said.
She was asked if she agreed that her report does not identify vaccination as one of the strategies to mitigate risks in flight.
“There wasn’t a lot of evidence for this, so as a strategy as a whole, it hasn’t been evaluated in the literature and therefore not elaborated on in the review,” Waddell responded.
Waddell also said the PHAC summary did not recommend vaccination as a requirement to travel by air.
The government presented 16 witnesses and experts in court to defend the mandate. The Epoch Times has reviewed the statements and interrogations of four of them that are available.
Jennifer Little, director general of Transport Canada’s COVID Recovery Team, wrote the travel mandate policy and testified on June 9 and 10 that neither PHAC nor its parent department Health Canada had made a recommendation on the mandate.
Another witness, who has been sitting in an advisory group of the head of public health Dr. Theresa Tam as of December 2021, said the issue of mandates and COVID-19 in transportation was rarely discussed.
“I don’t remember any such presentation of data”, answered Dr. Eleni Galanis when asked if anyone has presented any data or analysis regarding COVID-19 in the transport sector during the meetings with Dr. Tam.