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Will Canada reach herd immunity with vaccine hesitancy lowering?

Last Updated Jul 20, 2021 at 8:38 pm MDT

EDMONTON — More Canadians appear to be softening their hard stance against vaccines. A new survey finds only 8 per cent say they definitely, or probably, will not get vaccinated – the lowest hesitancy yet.

“Certainly many Canadians who were thinking about not doing this are now saying ‘okay everything is fine, my friends are still here, there’s no microchip in it, I’ll get it done’,” said Mario Canseco, the president of Research Co.

The growing vaccine acceptance comes as the goalposts move for herd immunity. While the target was initially estimated to be 75 per cent fully immunized, the higher transmissibility of the Delta variant requires even higher uptake.

“Some of those studies out of the U.S. and modelling, which have to be taken with a grain of salt, are suggesting we need vaccine rates at 85 per cent or better,” said Dr. Craig Jenne, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary.



As it stands, fewer than seven in ten have had their first dose, while only 44 per cent of Canadians are fully vaccinated. Countries that are slightly ahead on the vaccine curve like the United Kingdom are already experiencing a fourth wave.

“In the UK, their levels of vaccinations are higher than ours now, cases and hospitalizations are really skyrocketing, so the question is could that happen here? We have to be mindful that it could,” said Thomas Tenkate an associate professor at the School of Occupational and Public Health at Ryerson University.

When it comes to childhood vaccines like polio and measles, Canada typically has seen an overall uptake of 90 per cent. But even then, there are lessons to be learned.

“For example with measles, to truly have community herd immunity we need greater than 94 per cent protection. And in some areas of Canada, we’re not reaching that level, and we’re seeing measles outbreaks,” said Jenne.

Whether Canada reaches herd immunity is likely still months off. But the goal ultimately remains the same now as it did a year ago.

“Can we vaccinate enough people to ensure that the numbers of cases we’re going to have on an ongoing basis can be manageable?” said Tenkate.