Travel vaccination warrant supported by limited in-flight transmission data: court documents

A Canadian government epidemiologist assigned to review the scientific literature on COVID-19 testified in court that there is little information available on the impacts of vaccination on in-flight transmission of the virus.

“There aren’t a lot of studies that look at the state of vaccination, most of the research done took place before widespread vaccination,” said Dr Lisa Waddell of the Agency’s Emerging Science Group. Public Health Canada (PHAC).

Waddell also said she did not know if the Canadian government had undertaken its own independent study to assess the effects of vaccination on in-flight transmission.

Waddell testified as a government witness on May 31 to defend the government’s vaccination travel mandate. The Liberals suspended the travel mandate (excluding international arrivals) on June 20, warning it could be reinstated depending on circumstances.

Four lawsuits are currently challenging the warrant in Federal Court and are proceeding concurrently. While the government wants the court to declare the challenge moot, the plaintiffs still want the case to be heard by a judge.

Waddell submitted an affidavit supporting the government’s position, highlighting his criticism of the expert reports submitted by the plaintiffs.

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 in a plane: vaccinated air passengers are more protected than unvaccinated ones.”

“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 between South Africa and China.

Waddel said most of the studies she reviewed were flawed, with “high risk of bias due to their retrospective investigations of in-flight transmission”.

“We also have a number of simulation-type studies that obviously make a lot of assumptions about everything that was known at the time,” Waddell said.


Waddell and his team were tasked with reviewing and evaluating the evidence regarding in-flight transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

They summarized their findings in the November 25, 2021 report entitled “Evidence on the risk of COVID-19 transmission in flight: update 3”.

“Across all reviews, the risk of infection during a flight is low,” the report said.

“A meta-analysis found that between January and June 2020, the risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 in an airplane cabin was estimated at 1 case per 1.7 million travelers.”

Waddell testified that she considered it a low risk.

The report also states that “airborne particle counts in airplanes are lower than in retail/grocery stores, restaurants, offices, homes, and other forms of transportation.”

The PHAC official confirmed during cross-examination that no further analysis was produced after November 25.

Given the time elapsed between the report’s release in November and its cross-examination in May, Waddell was asked if any new studies had been published examining the impacts of vaccination on in-flight transmission.

“So we looked to see what had been published since the [report] …And there don’t seem to be any more statistics on vaccination as a potential protective effect of in-flight transmission,” she said.

She was asked if she agreed that her report did not identify vaccination as one of the strategies to mitigate in-flight risk.

“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 isn’t elaborated on in the review,” Waddell replied.

Waddell also said the PHAC brief did not recommend vaccination as a requirement for air travel.

Other testimonials

The government presented 16 witnesses and experts in court to defend the mandate. The Epoch Times has reviewed the affidavits and cross-examination of four of them that are available.

Jennifer Little, director general of the COVID Recovery Team at Transport Canada, wrote the travel warrant policy and testified June 9-10 that neither PHAC nor its parent department Health Canada had done recommendation for the mandate.

Another witness, who has served on an advisory group to Chief Public Health Officer Dr Theresa Tam since December 2021, said the issue of mandates and COVID-19 in transportation is rarely discussed.

“I don’t recall any such data presentation,” Dr. Eleni Galanis replied when asked if anyone had presented data or analysis related to COVID-19 in the transport sector during meetings with Dr. Tam.


Noé Chartier is an Epoch Times reporter based in Montreal. Twitter: @NChartierET Gettr: @nchartieret

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