A new poll conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies has shown that a majority of Canadians oppose mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, contradicting previous studies on the matter.
The poll showed that 39 percent of Canadians believe that the hypothetical COVID-19 vaccine should be mandatory, while 54 percent believe it should be administered voluntarily. A previous poll conducted in July showed 57 percent of Canadians support mandatory vaccinations, while only 43 percent opposed such measures.
The poll also contrasts with polls conducted in the United States, where only 26 percent of people believe that COVID-19 vaccinations should be made mandatory when available.
Support for mandatory vaccinations is highest in Ontario and among individuals 55+ years old. However, no single province or age cohort has shown a majority support for mandatory vaccinations.
Vaccines are not and never have been mandatory in Canada. However, children in such as Ontario and New Brunswick are required to have a certain set of vaccinations before they can attend public school unless they have a valid medical exemption. Vaccines can also be forcefully administered under certain circumstances in Alberta, although such actions have never been taken.
According to Statistics Canada, Canadians are becoming increasingly worried about the potential side effects of a coronavirus vaccine. Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said that this is likely because "media attention has been around whether it will be reliable."
While the federal government has cut some regulation to speed up the process of developing a vaccine, Dr. Theresa Tam assured Canadians that the vaccine will be completely safe to use and will be properly tested. Such concerns have grown ever since Russia announced the creation of a coronavirus vaccine, with critics questioning the long-term safety of a vaccine developed in such a short period of time.
Despite increasing opposition to mandatory vaccinations, Canadians continue to support vaccinations as a whole. The same Leger poll found that only 17 percent of Canadians would "definitely not" get vaccinated against COVID-19. Another 14 percent said they would "probably not" get a vaccine, while nearly two thirds of Canadians said they would likely or definitely get a vaccine, dropping by seven points since July.
The biggest difference between Canadians and Americans came in vaccine prioritization. While 65 percent of Canadians believed that priority should be given to more at-risk groups such as the elderly and healthcare workers, only 45 percent of Americans agreed.
Even within Canada, attitudes toward prioritization varied widely. In Quebec, 75 percent of respondents agreed that certain at-risk groups should be given priority, while less than half of Manitobans and Saskatchewanians agreed with the statement.
Despite public discussion on the matter, the federal government has said that there is no current plan to make the coronavirus vaccine mandatory, with Health Minister Patty Hajdu stating that health authorities are "prepared to protect Canadians who choose to be vaccinated."
Hajdu went on to stress the importance of voluntarily getting vaccinated, saying "we believe that people have a choice in Canada about whether or not to be vaccinated, but we also believe we have an important responsibility as Canadians to take vaccinations to protect our communities."