'I'm very scared': Kitchener, Ont. pharmacist believes he was attacked for administering COVID-19 vaccines
A pharmacist from Kitchener, Ont. says he was physically and verbally assaulted for administering COVID-19 vaccines.
Frederick Mall Pharmacy owner Ramzy Shaker was at a nearby Tim Hortons Wednesday morning, just before he was about to open up, when he says he got attacked.
"All of a sudden someone hit me in the head right here," said Shaker. "He screamed at my face and said 'I know you've been giving that vaccine to everyone' and continued to punch."
Shaker says he got punched three times in the back of his head, in his stomach, and legs.
The alleged attack continued until a bystander and an off-duty police officer stepped in to help. The man was later arrested.
"I really owe him my life," said Shaker. "If he wasn't around I would be dead from the punches."
The pharmacist says he's never been afraid to go to work until now.
"I'm very scared," said Shaker. "I’m watching my back now.
"I'm in severe pain."
However, he still had to go to work on Wednesday, because he wasn't able to find someone to cover his shift.
"By about 1 p.m. he started coughing and vomiting blood," said Katrina Liddell, a staff member at the pharmacy. "That's when we had to close the doors and call the ambulance to take him to the hospital."
In a Saturday statement, Waterloo regional police say a 28-year-old Kitchener man assaulted four people and damaged two vehicles.
He was arrested by the off-duty officer and a citizen and has been charged with several offences, including three counts of assault, assaulting a peace officer, and two counts of mischief under $5,000.
"I want to help get the justice that needs to be served," said Liddell.
Police say they are investigating and looking to determine the motivations for the assaults and if they were targeted.
The Ontario Pharmacy Association says assaults of pharmacists have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic.
"While there may be disagreements around healthcare policy and mandates, it does not give anyone the right to treat anyone with disrespect," said Justin Bates, the CEO of the association.
Shaker says despite the pain and fear he feels, he will continue to do the job he loves.
"The message I want for all pharmacists is to be careful, to watch out," he said.