Nearly 20 per cent of Canadians still need to be convinced to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a new poll suggests — with one in 10 saying they definitely won’t get the shot.
The Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News found 82 per cent of the 1,000 adults surveyed have either already been vaccinated or are awaiting their appointment. That bodes well for a high level of immunity among the Canadian population, particularly if those who are unsure can be convinced to get the jab.
“If you can get up to 90 per cent (of the population inoculated) in any jurisdiction, I think most epidemiologists would say we’re doing pretty well,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs.
Yet the poll also found mixed enthusiasm for various incentives that could push people to get vaccinated, including cash lotteries and time off from work.
While the nine per cent of those refusing to get the shot may never be convinced, Bricker says the group that’s unsure will likely continue to shrink as access improves and first-hand experience grows.
“The more people that they know, the more people, their families and their close social circles that get vaccinated and are OK, that will convince them to to try things on themselves,” he said.
More hesitancy among women, young people
After a sluggish winter that saw supply issues and long waits for eligibility to expand, Canada’s vaccination campaign has become a success story.
The country is now among the top five in the world in administering high numbers of doses daily, and leads the globe in the share of the total population that has received at least one dose — more than 65 per cent.
According to the COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker, 75 per cent of eligible Canadians have received at least one dose, while at least 18 per cent are fully vaccinated with two doses.
Federal health officials have said the country needs to reach a 75 per cent inoculation rate among Canadians aged 12 and over for provinces and territories to begin safely loosening health restrictions, with at least 20 per cent fully vaccinated.
However, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said this week that the first number should potentially be bumped up beyond 80 per cent due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, which is on track to become the dominant form of COVID-19 in the country.
Although the Ipsos poll suggests the country may be on track to reach that updated goal, it also found concerning gaps in who is resisting the shot.
Among the respondents, women were more likely than men to say they are hesitant (20 per cent versus 18 per cent) or “definitely not” getting the vaccine (11 per cent compared to six per cent of men).
Younger Canadians also showed more hesitancy, with 15 per cent of those aged 18 to 35 saying they were unsure, compared to 11 per cent of 35 to 54-year-olds and only two per cent of those aged 55 and up. Another 10 per cent of young adults said they would not get the shot at all.
Bricker says past polling has shown women are generally more cautious about taking risks, particularly when it comes to their health. Younger people in some parts of the country may also still be waiting to become eligible for their shot, he adds, or are ensuring more vulnerable populations get inoculated first.
What’s also troubling, Bricker says, is that some parts of the country like Atlantic Canada showed higher numbers of hesitancy or refusal in the poll compared to other provinces. More than 20 per cent Atlantic respondents said they were unsure if they’ll get a shot, compared to just seven per cent in Quebec.
“If (hesitancy is) concentrated among specific groups of the population, particularly specific groups of the population that come in contact with each other a lot, that’s a big problem,” he said.
“Ten percent (refusal or hesitancy) generally distributed across the population, that’s less of a risk than if it’s, say, 25 per cent of youth in a particular area.”
Mixed attitude about incentives
Some provinces are trying to combat hesitancy by offering perks to those who get their shot. Alberta this week launched a $1-million lottery, while Manitoba is offering several prizes of $100,000.
But the poll suggests those incentives may only sway about half of unvaccinated adults at most. Just 55 per cent of those surveyed said the chance to win $1 million would change their minds, while the rest held firm.
About the same number of unvaccinated adults said they could be tempted by Manitoba’s prize system and other potential rewards, including smaller cash payments or a paid day off from work.
Bricker says even those gains are worth it.
“Every centimeter of that last kilometer is going to count,” he said.
“That last 10 per cent — the people that are really, truly not ever going to consider this — there’s really little incentive that you can offer to them to get them on. … But that other 10 per cent that are (unsure), these different incentives are not necessarily a bad idea.”
Bricker said further incentives will also come from society, as governments and businesses debate issues like vaccine passports or barring unvaccinated people from certain activities and large gatherings.
“Unless people are absolute hermits, this will be another thing that pushes them into into considering being vaccinated,” he said.
“I do think that the data is showing that there’s way, way more opportunity to vaccinate people today than there is a need to really focus on convincing people that they need to be vaccinated.”
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between June 11th and 14th, 2021, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,001 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online. 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.