As new case numbers continue to soar in B.C. and other parts of the country, fewer people say they want to be the first to get a coronavirus vaccine, according to a new poll released Friday.
The Angus Reid Institute conducted a second survey on this topic and found attitudes have shifted since the results of the first poll were released.
“We're actually seeing a softening, in terms of the willingness or the desire, of Canadians to actually put up their hand and be at the front of the line when it comes to wanting to avail themselves to get a vaccine as soon as one is widely available,” explained Shachi Kurl, the executive director of the institute.
The survey conducted in September found 39 per cent of Canadians want to get a vaccination against the coronavirus as soon as possible, compared to 38 per cent who want to take a wait-and-see approach.
In July, 46 per cent said they’d want to be the first to get the vaccine and 32 per cent said they would wait.
The numbers for those who do not want to get the shot and those who are undecided have not changed significantly.
“Some of the top reasons they're feeling that hesitancy has to do with potential side effects from a vaccine, and also the belief among many that the vaccine may not work,” Kurl said. “But even then, I think this shows us that public health officials may have some work to do when the vaccines do become available or are close to becoming available.”
She said those in B.C. and the Atlantic provinces are more willing to inoculate early, while Alberta and Quebec residents show the most resistance to any vaccination.
Doctors say the issue of vaccine hesitancy is not new but the survey results show more efforts need to be made to gain public confidence.
“We, as the health care providers, as well as our health care system, need to make sure that people are comfortable, understand the risks if there are any, and understand the benefits of taking the vaccine,” said Dr. Ran Goldman, a professor at UBC’s faculty of medicine and pediatrician at BC Children’s Hospital.
On Thursday, Health Canada began reviewing the first submission for authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine by British drugmaker, AstraZeneca, and the University of Oxford.
The department said it is examining the vaccine data to make sure it meets its “rigorous safety and efficacy requirements.”
“I think any progress in vaccine programs is a big milestone. This is a vaccine that, we think, by taking it, will have an effect on our immunity against this pandemic and this virus,” Goldman said.
But until any vaccines against the coronavirus are available, people are being encouraged to take the influenza vaccine.
“Knowing that the pandemic and COVID-19 are still around, we need to make sure we reduce utilization of our hospitals and clinics as much as possible. The vaccine for influenza, it can definitely help with that, to avoid a ‘twindemic,’” he said.