More Canadians willing to roll up their sleeves right away as national COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins

More Canadians willing to roll up their sleeves right away as national COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins

Majority express confidence in federal government’s ability to effectively manage vaccine distribution

December 14, 2020 – Perhaps it was the reassurance of the first, chipper, elderly patients in Britain who spoke about their experience that has made the difference. Perhaps, as the coronavirus pandemic casts its longest shadow onto what are already the darkest days of the year, the transition of the vaccine conversation from abstract concept to tangible reality has had an impact.

Either way, the latest data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute indicates a notable increase in the number of Canadians who say they are willing to be immunized against COVID-19 as soon as a vaccine is available to them. A month ago, a plurality of Canadians (40%) said they were keen to be vaccinated ASAP as opposed to wanting to wait a while first. Today, half (48%) now want an immediate jab, a boost of eight percentage points.

Those 65 and over are among the most likely to say they’re eager to be immunized (61%). But while more in this country express a desire for inoculation sooner rather than later, the number of those who say they will not get a vaccine has remained static at roughly one-in-seven. This rate varies from province to province, making the task for public health officials in some places potentially more challenging than others.

Despite recent speculation and criticism that Canada would lag behind in obtaining doses, it has turned out to be one of the first countries globally to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. As a result, half in this country say the Trudeau government has done a “good job” securing vaccine for its citizens, while a majority express confidence in its ability to effectively manage distribution nationally (58%).

More Key Findings:

  • There is near unanimous agreement that older and more at-risk people should get the vaccine first. Fewer than one-in-ten say it should be “first come first serve”.
  • Among those who say they would wait to be vaccinated or not get a vaccine at all, the majority (70%) express concerns over the potential for long-term side effects.
  • Asked whether vaccination should be mandatory in certain scenarios or places, a majority say it should be for healthcare workers and those in extended care homes.


About ARI

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.



Part One: Vaccine Vivacity

  • Increase in willingness for immediate vaccination

  • Concerns over side effects persist

  • Near-unanimity over who should be vaccinated first

  • Less agreement on mandatory vaccination

Part Two: Grading the government on doses and delivery

  • Majority have confidence in federal government to deliver the vaccine

  • Half say government has done a good job in securing doses, many unsure

Part Three: Concern and Restrictions

  • Concern over COVID rises again

  • Finding balance on restrictions proves a provincial challenge

Part One: Vaccine Vivacity

Increase in willingness for immediate vaccination

The federal government announced this week that it had approved the first COVID-19 vaccine for delivery to Canadians. This made Canada the third nation worldwide to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech-developed inoculation, after the United Kingdom and Bahrain had already done so. Nearly 250,000 doses of the vaccine will be taken by Canadians before the end of the year, beginning this week. The longer-term plan is for everyone who wants the vaccine to receive it by the end of 2021.

It appears Canadians are showing more willingness to be inoculated as soon as possible. Half of Canadians (48%) now say they would get the vaccine as soon as it became available, a significant jump from previous studies over the past five months.

Frontline healthcare workers and those at risk in long-term care are the first priority for federal and provincial governments in targeting groups that will receive early rounds of vaccination. If older residents do indeed get priority afterward, which is a subject of much debate, this news will be welcome by this segment. Canadians over 65 years of age are by far the most likely to say they would take the vaccine immediately:

*indicates small sample size, results should be interpreted with caution

Willingness for inoculation as soon as possible varies across the country. It is lowest in Saskatchewan, where two-in-five (40%) say they would take a vaccine immediately. At least half of residents in British Columbia, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada would opt to get vaccinated right away.

Restrictions on businesses and socializing that will last until at least early January have been announced in both B.C. and Alberta, throwing a damper over the holiday season. Perhaps this helps explain why the steepest increases in vaccine receptiveness have been in both of these provinces, as the contrast between normalcy and pandemic-induced lockdowns feels sharper than ever.

Concerns over side effects persist

While half of the population is anxiously awaiting the vaccine, others are less enthusiastic. Those who did not say they would get a vaccine as soon as it was available were asked a follow up question about their specific concerns. For most, the long-term potential side effects are the most worrisome aspect of this issue. Canadians of all ages and backgrounds share this concern. While some short-term side effects are documented and to be expected, longer term concerns are unknown by virtue of the speed of developments and trials. That said, for one-in-four among this group, trust of government and public health officials is a key driver of opposition:

Near-unanimity over who should be vaccinated first

One aspect of the vaccine rollout plan appears uncontroversial, as nearly all Canadians say that once frontline healthcare workers and those involved in long-term care are vaccinated, the next population to be targeted should be those with specific risk factors. Nine-in-ten say (88%) that older people and those with doctor-assessed risks should be first in line, as opposed to a first come first serve, or an equal opportunity lottery approach. Canadians across different age and income categories agree on this:

Less agreement on mandatory vaccination

As Canadians think about their own personal choice to be vaccinated, there is another question of whether vaccines should be mandatory – and under what circumstances. For seven-in-ten (71%), vaccination for frontline health and long-term care workers is a key area of consensus. Beyond that however, there is less agreement.

Half of Canadians believe a person should have to be vaccinated in order to work at schools. Further, two-in-five would extend mandatory inoculation to those who work in public spaces or wish to attend large gatherings such as concerts or sports events. Fully one-in-five say vaccination shouldn’t be a requirement under any circumstances.

Notably, those who would get vaccinated overwhelmingly say that people in high-risk areas like healthcare and extended care should have to be vaccinated as well. However, this is a similarity they share with one-quarter of those who would not get vaccinated themselves. In fact, 35 per cent of those who will not get vaccinated say that immunization should be mandatory in at least some parts of society.

Part Two: Grading the government on doses and delivery

Majority have confidence in federal government to deliver the vaccine

There had been recent criticism from the official opposition and national columnists that the Liberal federal government would be late to deliver vaccines because of mismanagement. While the timeline is yet to be fully determined, a firm majority of Canadians are offering the federal government a vote of confidence on this file. Three-in-five (58%) say they are confident in Trudeau and the Liberals to manage the rollout – much of which will be then handed over to the provinces for delivery and decisions over which populations to target. This question delineates along political lines, however:

Half say government has done a good job in securing doses, many unsure

Canada has reserved the highest number of COVID-19 vaccines per capita in the world, reportedly enough doses for more than four times the population. Amid this news, half of Canadians (47%) are satisfied with the federal government’s efforts to secure these vaccines, twice the amount that say the opposite (23%). A significant portion (29%), however, say they are not sure how to assess this issue:

Part Three: Concern and Restrictions

Concern over COVID rises again

Canada is now firmly entrenched in a second wave of the coronavirus. Provinces are imposing restrictions in order to flatten this subsequent curve, with some success becoming evident in British Columbia, Manitoba, and Atlantic Canada, and the upward trajectory continuing in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Amid this, concern levels have jumped again, with 84 per cent of residents now worried about their friends and family becoming sick. This is the highest point since April:

At least three-quarters of residents in each part of the country say that they have worries about their social circle as the holidays approach:

Finding balance on restrictions proves a provincial challenge

Despite high levels of concern, however, there is no unanimity when it comes to how the pandemic should be handled from province to province. Asked how they feel about the current restrictions, which feature a mandatory mask mandate in every province, and varying levels of lockdown depending on the community, Canadians are deeply divided. Two-in-five say that their province has hit the right mark, with the highest proportion saying this in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. That said, a near equal number say that the restrictions do not go far enough; half in British Columbia and Saskatchewan hold this view. One-in-five say the restrictions are too strict:

Men are much more likely than women to say that the restrictions go too far, but each group expresses all three views to a great extent.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

For detailed results by willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodologyclick here.

To read the questionnaire, click here.

Image – Sam Moqadam/Unsplash


Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821

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