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Ex-China hostage Michael Kovrig gets COVID-19 vaccine in Canada

One of freed diplomat’s first public appearances is to receive vaccination in Toronto.
Michael Kovrig seen at Toronto’s Lawlor Pharmacy with pharmacist Kyro Maseh on September 27, 2021. Kovrig got his first Canadian vaccine dose three days after being freed from a Chinese jail.
Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig has received his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Canada, as one of his first public appearances following his release from a Chinese prison last Friday.

Toronto pharmacist Kyro Maseh posted a photo on Twitter of he and Kovrig at Lawlor Pharmacy on Monday, stating he “had the honor of providing this man (Kovrig) with his first dose.”

Maseh told Glacier Media Kovrig was in good spirits.

“He was very upbeat, cracked a lot of jokes. Many of the jokes were about his time in prison,” said Maseh, via Twitter.

But Kovrig’s visit to the pharmacy raises the possibility, if not likelihood, that the Chinese government did not vaccinate him and fellow Canadian prisoner Michael Spavor, who were both kept in isolation.

In Canada, prisoners were among priority populations given the conditions they face. Last week, Bloomberg reported China had fully vaccinated more than a billon people but information on their prison vaccination policies is scant, according to the Washington Post.

Glacier Media wasn’t able to reach Kovrig to confirm whether or not he had received any of the Chinese vaccines, which are inferior products and not recognized by many countries, including Canada.

Hence, regardless of his Chinese vaccination status, Kovrig still requires his “first” dose of a Canadian-approved vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca) in order to receive his Ontario vaccination passport. Maseh could not provide any personal details.

But on June 25, Kovrig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, told CTV News it was her understanding Kovrig had not been vaccinated. As a result of being in isolation, “He has a general idea that we’ve been living through a pandemic,” said Nadjibulla.

Nevertheless, Maseh said Kovrig wanted to use his current public spotlight to advocate for vaccination.

“He mentioned that he wished to use the attention on his case as a way of endorsing vaccinations because he personally believed it will save lives.”

Maseh said Kovrig’s sister contacted him Saturday, to arrange for his vaccination.

“It made me feel that he was aware of the risks involved with this virus and he wanted to get protected as soon as possible so he can get on with his life.”

Upon his return to Canada, Kovrig is likely to now witness a small minority of the population claiming the COVID-19 vaccine is an affront to personal liberty and/or a conspiracy by global elites to control people.

“Unlike the protesters,” said Maseh, “it was evident that Michael understood that safety is required to establish freedom.

“He is doing a lot of self-care so he can recover and live as a free man. Protecting himself through vaccination is part of that self-care,” added Maseh, who has been a subject of past news articles advocating for vaccinations through pharmacies.

Kovrig and Spavor were detained in December 2018 by the Chinese government, which later claimed they were spies. Kovrig was never sentenced whereas Spavor was, for 11 years, following a one-day trial last month where Canadian officials were barred from attending. Chinese-state media later reported Spavor had been caught taking photos of military equipment, however details are scant and unsourced.

Kovrig and Spavor were both released the same hour Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was discharged from her extradition process Friday afternoon in B.C. Supreme Court.

Kovrig and Spavor are hence widely perceived in the West as hostages in retaliation for Meng’s arrest in December 2018 at Vancouver International Airport for international sanctions-related fraud charges in the U.S. In her agreement, Meng admitted to lying to banks about Huawei’s operations in Iran.

Chinese and American officials have denied the release of the ‘Two Michaels’ was a prisoner exchange for Meng’s deferred prosecution agreement.