Sunday, April 14, 2024

Canadians worry anti-vax movement will increase parental opposition to childhood vaccines

Toronto (Feb 28) – As some diseases such as measles and polio – thought to be worries of the past – have been breaking out globally and in Canada, many Canadians are expressing concern, even alarm, about waning vaccination acceptance in their country.

New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds seven-in-10 Canadians (71%) feeling the anti-vaccination movement is going to lead to unnecessary illness and suffering in the population.

This comes as there appears to be growing skepticism about vaccine efficacy among Canadians in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – especially among parents with children under 18.

One-in-six parents of minors (17%) say they are “really against” vaccinating their kids, a four-fold increase from 2019. There has also been a simultaneous 15-point decrease (70% in 2019, 55% in 2024) in the proportion of Canadians who support mandatory childhood vaccination in schools – a policy in place in Ontario and New Brunswick. Opposition to this idea has risen correspondingly from one-quarter (24%) to closer to two-in-five (38%).

Half of those with children younger than 18 say that it should be the parents’ decision whether to vaccinate (52%). That proportion drops to 32 per cent for those who do not have children under 18.

What is notable within this debate is that there has been little change in the proportion of those who say opposing child vaccination is irresponsible. In 2015, 2019, and 2024, between 72 and 75 per cent of Canadians have held this view.

In 2024, views of vaccinations vary across the country, from those who are completely confident in their efficacy, to those who feel they should not be given at all.

The Angus Reid Institute used responses from this survey to better understand this phenomenon, creating the Vaccine Acceptance Index. On one end are Max Vaxxers (29% of Canadians), those who feel vaccines are “very effective” at ensuring better outcomes for both the individual and the community, who support mandatory vaccination for children, and who are not concerned about the potential for “significant” side effects. On the other end are a group half that size – the Anti-Vax (14%) – who overwhelmingly feel that vaccination is harmful and unnecessary, that the science isn’t settled, and that the body does not need vaccination to build up immunity to these illnesses. In between are those who are largely supportive but have some reservation (the Vax Proponents 34%) and those who are skeptical but not dismissive (the Vax Skeptics 24%).

One thing that unifies Canadians across this spectrum is a sense that these are now more difficult issues to talk about with friends and family. At least one-in-five across each of the four vaccine acceptance groups say these are issues they worry about bringing up in social circles. This does, however, rise to three-in-10 among Anti-Vax and Vax-Skeptics.


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