Canadians’ concern over COVID-19 has waned — and so has their drive to get vaccinated: poll

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Majority of Canadians still concerned over COVID: poll
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A majority of Canadians remain concerned about COVID-19, however, their anxieties toward the virus have softened and vary depending on age, according to a new poll.

The Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News between Dec. 14 and 16, 2022, found 61 per cent of the 1,004 adults surveyed indicated that COVID-19 is a concern and 70 per cent disagreed with the notion the virus “is not a big deal.”

However, a clear consensus that once existed among Canadians supporting strong public health measures and showing high levels of concern appears to have softened, says Ipsos senior vice-president Sean Simpson.

“What’s really interesting about the evolution of this disease and public opinion on the disease is two years ago, there was pretty well a consensus in Canada: COVID was a concern. There was very strong support for mandatory vaccinations, for restrictions on travel, et cetera,” he said.

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“Now that we’re almost nearing the three-year mark, we have nothing close to a consensus and we can’t even necessarily agree that it is an ongoing concern.”

Two years ago, Simpson says levels of anxiety about the virus and support for public health measures all had levels of support in the 80 to 90 per cent range.

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Now, with just over 60 per cent of Canadians indicating the virus as a concern and just under 40 per cent saying it isn’t, Canadians have become “increasingly divided on the issue of COVID-19,” Simpson said.

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Older Canadians were more likely to indicate feelings of concern over the virus, with three-quarters of those 55 and over saying they’re worried, while 57 per cent of those 35 to 54 agreed and 50 per cent of 18- to-34-year-olds said they were concerned.

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Simpson says this difference of opinion among age groups has been a consistent trend in polling on COVID-19 over the last three years, which reflects the realities of those most at risk from the virus.

“Older people are more vulnerable, younger people in general are less vulnerable to COVID-19.… The older you are, the more likely you are to believe that COVID-19 is an ongoing concern for you,” he said.

Regionally, respondents from the Prairies indicated the highest levels of concern at 68 per cent and those in Alberta had the lowest, at 52 per cent.

As concern over SARS-CoV-2 is waning in Canada, so, too, is Canadians’ drive to get COVID-19 vaccines, according to the poll.

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents said they had recently received a COVID-19 vaccine and another 14 per cent said they intended to get one.

But close to three in 10 said they do not intend to get a COVID-19 shot, which represents a reduction in the proportion of people who say they’re going to get the vaccine, Simpson said.

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“Again, it was up (at) 80, 85 per cent when vaccines first came out,” he said.

“A lot of people were on board with getting it either because they felt that was the appropriate thing to do or because that was what the threshold was in order to be able to get your passport and do things without that stick or carrot, as it were.”

Federal data shows over 80 per cent of Canadians have received their initial two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but only 50 per cent have received at least one booster dose and only 30 per cent have had a booster in the last six months.

The Ipsos polling results reflect this waning enthusiasm for COVID-19 vaccines, Simpson said.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘That’s it, that’s enough for me. I’ve done what I was required to do and I’m not going to volunteer to get any more shots.’”

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However, more Canadians say they’ve been recently vaccinated against COVID-19 than have received their flu shot, according to the polling results.

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This is despite a significant and early wave of influenza cases that have swept across Canada over the last several weeks, which slammed the country’s already understaffed ERs and children’s hospitals.

Only four in 10 Canadians say they’ve had a flu shot, compared with 58 per cent who say they’ve recently received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, the same proportion of those who have had a flu vaccine this year — four in 10 — said they don’t plan to get a flu shot this year, the poll results say.

Once again, those who are older and more vulnerable to influenza are more likely to have received a jab than younger Canadians.

And while a majority of people — 64 per cent — say they are more likely to get a flu shot this year compared with last year, 14 per cent of Canadians say the opposite.

Overall, the polling numbers suggest COVID-19 and vaccination intentions have become more “divisive” as the world has entered the fourth year of the pandemic, Simpson said.

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But they may also indicate Canadians are experiencing pandemic fatigue — a public attitude that is likely to guide government policy decisions away from implementing future restrictions, even as the new, highly transmissible variant XBB.1.5 has made its way to Canada, he added.

“People are just saying, ‘You know what? I’m done talking about that, dealing with it. I just want to move on,’” Simpson said.

“As a result of that sort of declining level of concern, declining level of interest, the growing apathy, it’s unlikely that governments are going to take major measures to institute any policy interventions just because the public appetite has declined.”

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 poll was conducted between Dec. 14 and 16, 2022, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,004 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. 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.

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