Although a majority of Canadians have already received or intend to get a COVID-19 booster shot or flu vaccine this year, 40 per cent of the population does not plan on rolling up their sleeves for the updated shot this fall, according to a new Ipsos poll done exclusively for Global News.
The poll, released Wednesday, found of that group, 45 per cent said they did not feel it was worth getting one. An additional 23 per cent of this group expressed concerns regarding the shot’s safety, while seven per cent were outright opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The narrative around COVID boosters is shifting,” explained Sean Simpson, vice-president of Ipsos Public Affairs. “When the vaccine first came out most people supported mandatory vaccinations. Most people got their vaccines. Now we’re further removed.
“I think one of the reasons support was so high originally was because it was seen as a civic duty. And we’re not really talking about that anymore and it’s more about a personal choice.”
Health Canada approved Moderna’s updated COVID-19 vaccine on Sept. 12. A few weeks later, it then gave the green light to Pfizer’s updated vaccine. Approval for the updated Novavax vaccine is still under review and has not been announced.
The updated mRNA vaccines are tailored to the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant that is circulating in the country. They are recommended for anyone over six months old who either last had a COVID-19 infection or a shot more than six months ago.
The boosters as well as the annual flu shots started rolling out across Canada in October, with the latest landing in Ontario. On Monday the province announced that public health units and primary health providers around Ontario will all offer new COVID-19 boosters along with annual flu shots.
Forty per cent of respondents may not want to get the updated shot, but 60 per cent said they have already received the recent booster or plan to get it soon, Simpson said.
“And that 60 per cent is the same when it comes to flu shots,” he said. “So if you’re going to get one, you’re going to get the other.”
When it came to the poll’s results, Simpson said the division in attitudes toward vaccines was strongly influenced by age.
“If you’re over 55, you’re much more likely to say you you’ve either received or will receive the flu shot, the COVID-19 vaccine booster vaccine, you’re much more likely to be actively following the news about COVID-19,” he said.
For example, when it comes to following the news about COVID-19, four in 10 respondents believe the virus is no longer a concern for them. But this sentiment is higher among those aged 18 to 34 (52 per cent) compared to 30 per cent among those aged 55 plus.
More than half (53 per cent) of Canadians said they have stopped following the news for information about COVID-19 and government recommendations, the poll found.
Sixty per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 34 agreed with this, while only 40 per cent of those 55 and older agreed.
Mixed vaccine messaging
Canadians aged 18 to 34 were more likely to have said they already received the COVID-19 booster vaccine (31 per cent) compared to those aged 35 to 54 (18 per cent) or age 55-plus (19 per cent), the poll found.
However, Simpson believes there may be confusion when it comes to younger people and boosters.
“When we look at younger people in this poll, they’re more likely to say that they’ve received a recent booster, but they may not appreciate what recent means,” he said.
“Because we know that younger people are less likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine boosters than older people. And they admit that they’re less likely to follow those recommendations than older people who follow them more or more diligently,” he said.
In September, Global News interviewed health experts who raised concerns about the guidance coming from public health officials regarding COVID-19 booster shots.
Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto, told Global News on Sept.1, that he believed information related to COVID-19 boosters was “truly confusing” and pointed out a lack of clarity in the messaging from public health officials.
The current guidelines provided by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), say beginning in the fall of 2023, it recommends a dose of the XBB.1.5-containing formulation of COVID-19 vaccine for individuals in the authorized age group if it has been at least six months from the previous shot or known SARS-CoV-2 infection (whichever is later).
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between October 20 and 23, 2023, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
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