by David Korzinski | January 10, 2021 9:30 pm
January 11, 2021 – Canadians appear to be transitioning from a place of professed caution to enthusiastic compliance when it comes to their willingness to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In a one-month span, the number of people saying they plan to be inoculated as soon as possible has increased 12 percentage points, with a firm majority (60%) now willing, and waiting.
And while concerns do exist about side effects and long-term implications of vaccination, most of those willing to roll up their sleeves in the months ahead now say they are more confident than anxious about the prospect.
While this news may delight public health officials, it also puts them – and their political masters – under the microscope. They have been criticized for struggling in recent weeks to effectively and efficiently jab vaccines into the arms of impatient Canadians. Indeed, 52 per cent say the amount of time they think they’ll personally wait to be vaccinated is “too long”.
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The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.
Since governments around the world approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine early last month, Canadians have been flooded with videos and images of the first people to receive the vaccine, from senior citizens and frontline healthcare workers in this country to Canada’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II. This, combined with relatively few cases of severe side effects, appears to have had a normalizing effect on willingness to receive a vaccine.
Three-in-five Canadians (60%) now say that they would like to get the COVID-19 vaccine immediately, as soon as it is available to them. This represents a significant shift in public sentiment from past months, when as few as 39 per cent of Canadians were excited about the prospect.
It must be noted however, that this increase is drawn mostly from the cohort who have previously indicated they wanted to wait a while before receiving the vaccine, and not from the group that says it will not be vaccinated. This latter segment of the population has declined slightly, but remains above ten per cent of the population:
While an increase in demand may provide challenges for governments and distribution networks to deliver the vaccine in an orderly and timely fashion, it will likely help to quell some of the concerns about vaccine skepticism, which have emerged over the past six months.
Notably, the movement in favour of enthusiasm for vaccinations has been across all age and gender combinations. That said, opinions among women over the age of 54 have changed most since last month:
Overall, after these new changes in opinion, seven-in-ten Canadians 55 years of age and older now say they would be vaccinated as soon as possible. This is now the case with a majority of all age and gender combinations, as seen in the graph below:
While vaccine uptake momentum grows, notable regional differences persist. The number of those who outright say they will not be vaccinated is below one-in-ten, for example, in British Columbia (8%) and Ontario (8%) but is one-in-five in Alberta (20%) and Saskatchewan (19%). In those two latter provinces, just half of residents say they would like to be vaccinated right away:
Alberta’s place as the least likely region to seek vaccination is owing to the lack of any positive momentum over the past month. While every other region has seen movement in the direction of enthusiasm about the COVID-19 vaccine, Albertans remain unchanged:
While the queue for vaccination has started with those who are most at-risk: healthcare workers, Canadians in long-term care homes, and those facing elevated health vulnerabilities, it is expected that older Canadians will likely be offered the vaccine before their younger counterparts, once phase one has been finished. Those who are 65 years of age or older are by far the most likely age group to be eager to receive their jab, though a considerable number of Canadians of all ages are anxiously awaiting their turn:
While 12 per cent of Canadians say they would not get the COVID-19 vaccine at all, the rest appear relatively comfortable with the prospect. Among the 88 per cent who do not rule out being inoculated, the vast majority say they are more confident than anxious about receiving their doses. Notably, older Canadians, those most likely to want the vaccine, also approach the process with the least anxiety, as seen in the graph below:
Also notable are the variations in perceptions between Canadians of different political affiliations. Those who supported the Conservative Party in the past federal election voice much greater levels of anxiety, though again, a full majority say they are comfortable with the prospects of being inoculated. According to Health Canada, there have been no reports of unexpected side effects from COVID-19 vaccines, with the results of clinical trials matching up well with the actual rate and nature of adverse reactions seen in Canadians:
*Please note small sample size to be interpreted with caution
Initially, the number of places eligible to administer inoculation was limited by the storage requirements of the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine, which must be kept in special freezers at temperatures between -80 C and -60 C. Since approval of the Moderna vaccine, however, Canada has been able to administer vaccines in places without these freezers, such as long-term care homes and remote First Nations communities. Nationwide pharmacy chains Shoppers Drug Mart and London Drugs have also begun talks with the federal and provincial governments to assist with vaccine distribution once availability increases.
Canadians are willing to have their vaccine administered at a number of different venues, though they would prefer a more traditional medical site if possible. Nine-in-ten (90%) say they would take the vaccine at their doctor’s office, the highest level of support for any proposed venue. That said, four-in-five (78%) would go to a local pharmacy, and seven-in-ten (69%) would visit a mobile vaccination site if that were an option. Just over half say they would invite someone to come to their home to be vaccinated:
As the one-year mark of COVID-19 hitting Canada inches closer, and exhausted Canadians face new or extended restrictions in their communities, vaccination is seen by many as their ticket back to some semblance of normal life. But how long do they expect to wait?
The Angus Reid Institute asked Canadians when they anticipate being able to access a COVID-19 dose, finding divergent expectations. Few expect to receive their vaccination within the next three months, though one-in-four over the age of 64 say they hope to. Roughly equal numbers say their anticipated timeline is either four to six months (33%) or seven to nine months (28%).
The federal government initially stated that any Canadian who was willing would be vaccinated by September (nine months from now) but last week noted that this plan is contingent upon Health Canada approving more vaccines than are currently available.
Expectations vary from one region to another. Albertans and Manitobans are the most likely to think it will take 10 months or more for them to get vaccinated, with roughly one-in-three saying this. Conversely, residents of British Columbia are less pessimistic: just 17 per cent anticipate having to wait for 10 months or longer to get a jab.
Criticisms about the pace of vaccination have emerged in recent weeks, as Canada’s delivery has fallen short of projections. While this country’s pace is behind the per capita delivery of the United States and United Kingdom, it is ahead of other G7 nations Germany and France. Approximately 550,000 doses have been delivered thus far. The Prime Minister noted that the delivery needs to be “scaled up” in order to meet targets his government has set and avoid shortages.
At least half of Canadians currently say the amount of time they expect to wait is too long. Older men are most likely to say this, while young women are most likely to say that their wait time is about what it should be:
The story arc of Canada’s narrative on vaccine distribution began with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government earning accolades for securing 414 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from companies such as Moderna and Pfizer/BioNtech, but quickly moved onto to finger pointing between Ottawa and the provinces over lack of progress distributing said vaccine.
Trudeau noted last week that he was “frustrated” as delivery occurs more slowly than initially planned. The provinces in turn, insisted the prime minister needs to provide the provinces with more doses and do so faster. In reality, there is pressure on both levels of government. Trudeau has already seen Canadian perceptions of how he is handling the pandemic slip from 62 per cent saying he is doing a “good job” in April to 50 per cent today (see detailed tables). Now, the provinces are being judged.
Data from Canada’s COVID-19 Vaccination Tracker show that overall only about 60 per cent of supplied vaccines have been administered. While any vaccination program is welcome news for Canadians impatiently waiting, more concerning are raw numbers revealing some individual American states have administered more vaccine than all of Canada, or when news of snowbirds chartering planes to the US to be vaccinates sooner hits the headlines, and nerves.
As provinces try to pick up the pace following a start that included some vaccination programs taking an almost-immediate hiatus over the holidays, premiers are defending their efforts. How are they being judged thus far? Dissatisfaction is highest in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, while the respective populations of BC and Quebec are more approving.
In some cases, established impressions about the performance of the provincial government in handling the pandemic may be colouring perceptions about vaccine distribution. For instance in Alberta, where Jason Kenney’s administration has been receiving poor marks for how it has dealt with the pandemic, just over one-third (36%) of residents say vaccine distribution is being done well, despite 75 per cent of vaccines already having been administered, the highest in the country as of this writing.
*Data as of Jan 10th, sourced from COVID-19 vaccination tracker
For detailed results by gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.
For detailed results by age, click here.
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