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Most Canadians unsympathetic to unvaccinated who get sick with COVID-19, poll finds

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The majority of Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19 say they don’t sympathize towards unvaccinated Canadians that become sick with COVID-19, according to the results of a new poll.

The findings, detailed in a report by the Angus Reid Institute Wednesday, comes amid growing polarization between Canada’s vaccinated and unvaccinated populations, according to experts.

Read more: Trudeau doubles down on mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for domestic travel

According to the poll, threequarters of Canadians say they have “no sympathy” for unvaccinated people who get sick with COVID-19. The sentiment rises to 83 per cent among those who are vaccinated.

On the other hand, a majority of those who choose not to get the shot have more sympathy for those that make the same choice, and become ill with the virus.

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According to Shachi Kurl, executive director of Angus Reid Institute, the poll’s findings were “very unequivocal.”

“This is quite definite in terms of a viewpoint that the majority of vaccinated Canadians have,” said Kurl.

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“It indicates to me that they’re losing patience and really reflecting a level of frustration or exasperation with those who choose not to be vaccinated.”

The poll’s data comes as public health officials say the majority of cases and hospitalizations now happening among those who did not receive their vaccine, or have yet to be fully immunized.

Read more: 90% of Canada’s COVID-19 cases are among unvaccinated, feds say

It also comes just days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed a long-anticipated federal election, set for September.

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The issue of how federally elected leaders plan to encourage those hesitant to get the shots is set to become a flashpoint between parties in the coming weeks.

The polling found a strong divide when it came to the subject of how the government was going to handle the country’s vaccine hesitant.

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About three-quarters of Canadians say they support the use of regulations, like vaccine passports and mandatory vaccinations to enter some public spaces in their province.

Forty-six per cent say that such regulations should be their province’s only strategy to convince unvaccinated Canadians to get the shot, while 27 per cent say there should be a “combined approach,” including the use of incentives.

A majority of supporters within Canada’s leading federal parties also are in support of using incentivization or regulation to garner higher vaccination rates, though that support is lowest in the CPC, which sits at 67 per cent compared to the Liberals’ 93 per cent.

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Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, said that the polarization between the vaccinated and unvaccinated population is “dangerous.”

“This growing anger towards the unvaccinated, I do not think is useful. I think there could be somewhat of a backfiring in which unvaccinated people simply are going to dig in even more,” he told Global News.

Bowman said he has been observing a growing divide between the groups, as well as an increasing intolerance to the unvaccinated over the last several weeks.

Read more: Here’s where the major party leaders stand on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination

While he encourages and supports communities to get their vaccination, Bowman says the more angry and divided Canadians get over the issue, it hampers the opportunity to nudge unvaccinated Canadians to get their shots.

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“One of the things I really worry about is this is the greatest disruption to Western culture since World War Two. And there will be a long-term legacy,” said Bowman.

“This will shift the social and cultural fabric that we live by and with,” he said.

“And the way we react to these issues politically, ethically, will have long-lasting implications for the fabric of our society.”

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Aug. 7-10, 2021 among a representative randomized sample of 1,615 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

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