A University of Guelph professor says he is being harassed by colleagues after speaking out publicly about concerns he has with current COVID-19 vaccines.
Byram Bridle is an associate professor of viral immunology at U of G and for over a year has been speaking publicly about concerns he has about current COVID-19 vaccines being offered to the public.
Some of those concerns have been countered by people who say the research doesn’t hold water, but Bridle said the way in which his detractors have gone about sharing that view is libellous.
On Thursday Bridle took part in a press conference at the parliamentary press gallery in Ottawa as a guest of independent MP Derek Sloan.
The Ontario MP, who was kicked out of the Conservative Party earlier this year, recently sponsored a petition questioning the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
In his remarks, Bridle said he is currently being subjected to a very public smear campaign as a result of his public statements about his concerns about current vaccines.
“There’s colleagues of mine who have been harassing me both in the social media and in the workplace,” he said.
In a statement, the U of G defended Bridle's right to freedom of expression "even when it may be perceived or believed to be controversial and at odds with the common understanding."
In a previous interview with GuelphToday, Bridle expressed concerns with vaccines, but did not label himself as anti-vaccination.
"As an immunologist, I like to point out that I really promote the value of vaccines," he told GuelphToday last December.
The harassment issue has been especially difficult, said Bridle, since he was interviewed on a Global News radio program two weeks ago where he was asked if there could be a possible link between reports of heart inflammation and COVID-19 vaccines.
“I felt I could express concern and that there might be a possible link between this heart inflammation that is occurring and these COVID-19 vaccines,” said Bridle.
He said his life was turned upside down after the interview aired and likened the response by many to a nuclear bomb going off.
“I have been undergoing daily attacks either through email or people attempting to call me,” said Bridle. “I should also mention I am experiencing harassment — lots of harassment — in the workplace.”
GuelphToday attempted to contact Bridle but an automatic email reply said he is not currently doing interviews.
One form of harassment, said Bridle, is a web site that was registered under his name which seems to debunk his claims about the vaccines.
He said the web site that was created is libellous and a Twitter account that was also developed seeks to slander him.
Bridle also claims that private medical information about his parents was leaked.
“This has been very hard on me and my family,” he said.
Last year, a team of researchers that included Bridle received provincial funding to the tune of $230,000 to develop a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
Bridle’s concerns with current COVID-19 vaccines has been adopted by many people online who believe them to be harmful.
In an emailed response to GuelphToday question, U of G said opinions expressed by faculty or researchers are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the university and that faculty members often publish research or make statements that are at times controversial or that provoke discussion and debate.
“The University of Guelph has stated publicly that vaccinations are an important step in bringing us safely out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The University is strongly encouraging everyone who is eligible for vaccination to get vaccinated,” said the statement.
It went on to say the university is 'committed to the principle of freedom of expression, which includes freedom of speech and means the ability to examine, question, critique, investigate, enquire, speculate and communicate on issues without deference to prescribed doctrine.'
“This overarching commitment and mission aligns with the right of individual faculty to express their own opinions or to pursue curiosity-driven research, even when it may be perceived or believed to be controversial and at odds with the common understanding,” said the statement.“
“Universities must continue to be places that value differing viewpoints, champion free speech, and promote inquiry and academic freedom. We do expect that all researchers adhere to the highest levels of scholastic integrity and comply with applicable laws and regulations.“
GuelphToday also asked the U of G if any harassment complaint had been filed by Bridle.
"We act on every workplace complaint brought to us per university policy and procedure," they replied. "Beyond that statement it is a confidential personnel matter."