The vast majority of Canadians believe that vaccinations should be mandatory for school-aged children, according to a new poll.
In an exclusive Ipsos poll prepared for Global News, 88 per cent of Canadians said they would approve of legislation to make it mandatory for all school-aged children to be up to date on their vaccinations unless there is a medical reason why they can’t be immunized. Two-thirds of Canadians said they would strongly approve of such legislation.
“Canadians definitely feel that vaccinations are important and should be legislated,” said Jennifer McLeod Macey, vice-president of Ipsos Public Affairs. “Canadians would also go so far as to say this is important enough that it needs to be posted so I can go somewhere and I can know that this school is compliant or this daycare is compliant.”
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Vaccination has become a hot topic of debate across Canada recently as B.C. dealt with an outbreak of measles focused among children at a few Vancouver schools with low vaccination rates. Other cases among travellers have also been reported in recent weeks.
The B.C. government announced in February that all children must report their vaccination status as they enter school but stopped short of banning unvaccinated children — a measure recently enacted by Italy.
Support for mandatory vaccination was lowest in Quebec, where two in 10 said they would oppose such a measure and only about half said they would strongly support it.
Just 43 per cent of Canadians said they would keep their kids home if they knew there was an unvaccinated child in their class, according to the poll.
“Canadians believe that vaccinations are important, that’s very clear here, but there is also a little bit of that sense that it can’t happen to me,” McLeod Macey said.
“It’s unfortunate because that’s where we get into trouble. When everyone starts doing that, we lose the higher vaccination rates and the herd immunity.”
Some of the people who responded that way have also likely already vaccinated their children.
Canadians still have concerns about possible side effects related to vaccination, though. While 85 per cent say they believe vaccinations are safe, two-thirds of Canadians said that while they believe vaccinations are necessary, they worry about some side effects.
“It’s not just blind compliance,” she said.
“It’s a complicated issue for parents.”
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, common vaccine side effects may include a low fever and a stiff, sore arm or leg where the needle went in. There is a less than one in one million chance of an allergic reaction to a vaccine, and serious reactions are very rare. Vaccines are not linked to autism, PHAC says.
“Just because they’re concerned about side effects doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re an anti-vaxxer or think that the MMR vaccine is going to lead to autism,” McLeod Macey said.
She thinks that the government could pay attention to these poll results when it comes to tailoring its vaccine education programs. Since most Canadians are turning to doctors for advice on vaccination, she said, providing doctors with the tools to inform people could help.
There are also some contradictions in the poll responses. While nine in 10 Canadians say that vaccinations should be mandatory for school-aged children, one-third also say they feel that vaccines are a personal choice.
“I believe that’s because generally, Canadians don’t want to be told what to do,” McLeod Macey said, although at least some of those people have no problem with legislating vaccine compliance for others, according to the poll data.
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Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.”
This Ipsos poll on behalf of Global News was an online survey of 1,001 Canadians conducted between Feb. 27 and 28. The results were weighted to better reflect the composition of the adult Canadian population, according to census data. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.