Alberta has seen a major drop in residents’ unwillingness and hesitancy to get the COVID-19 vaccine between the beginning of the year and this month, according to a new Angus Reid survey.
It suggests 17 per cent of Albertans now are either not interested or not sure about getting the vaccine.
That’s well down from the end of January, when 45 per cent of Albertans surveyed weren’t sure about the vaccine, according to the public opinion research organization.
The survey found that in Saskatchewan, one-quarter continue to be hesitant or opposed to vaccination, while all other regions hover around the 1-in-10 mark.
Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, says the results should be reassuring to public health officials about the ability to reach herd immunity — the point when a sufficient percentage of the population has become immune to the disease that it is no longer a major threat.
“Public health officials still have their work cut out for them if they want as many Canadians as possible to be vaccinated, but it looks like overall the country — in terms of its enthusiasm for a vaccine — is on track for herd immunity,” she said.
“In the next weeks, the conversation for Canadians is going to no longer be, ‘Should I get a shot?’ It’s going to be, ‘Where’s my second dose?’ I think that is where this conversation is going to go very quickly.”
The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from May 14 to 16, among a representative randomized sample of 1,319 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum.
Nationally, the poll suggests the percentage of those unwilling to be vaccinated continues to hover at around 10 per cent of the population, although it is slowly decreasing.
For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/– 3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
A poll conducted by Trend Research under the direction of Janet Brown Opinion Research for CBC News earlier this spring found at that time 20 per cent of Albertans had a wait-and-see approach to vaccination, with another 14 per cent saying they refused to get vaccinated.
Dr. Jia Hu, a public health physician and chair of 19 to Zero, a coalition addressing vaccine hesitancy, says the newer Angus Reid survey numbers are good news.
He said the trend away from vaccine hesitancy could be due to several factors, from people following the example of others whose judgment they trust, to people’s reaction to the pandemic’s third wave and a heightened desire to bring it to an end.
The results come as Alberta continues to fight a devastating third wave that has set records for active infections, daily infections and ICU admissions for COVID.
It also follows more widespread vaccinations and a proliferation of social media posts celebrating the jabs as younger generations swarm vaccine sites.
“The worse the COVID situation is, the more people want to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Hu.
He says it takes time and effort to find out why people are not willing to get a vaccine — and then find a way to build trust in those communities.