COVID-19 vaccine: Will Canadians take one when it's available?

A person wearing blue medical gloves prepares an injection holding a vial and a syringe.
Yahoo Canada readers are divided on whether they would take a vaccine against COVID-19. (Getty)

Armies of researchers around the world are working overtime to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. While it will take some time until one is available to stop the spread of the deadly and highly contagious virus, it seems as though Canadians are divided by the idea of how it could be administered.

A recent poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found a divide — 60/40 — amongst those who felt the vaccine should be mandatory, and those who felt it should be voluntary. A majority of people who took part in a poll conducted on Yahoo Canada’s Facebook page said they would not take a vaccine if it was available.

Horacio Bach, adjunct professor with the Division of Infectious Diseases at University of British Columbia, says once a vaccine for COVID-19 is ready, Canadians should not hesitate to take it because that’s the most effective way to stop the spread.

“We should get vaccinated,” he tells Yahoo Canada. “Vaccines are very successful to control disease. For polio, measles and most viral infections, we have vaccines.”

Bach says even those who’ve already experienced COVID-19 should still be vaccinated once it’s available since the virus is always changing.

“Once it arrives in the body, (the virus is) constantly changing, so it’s not the original one,” he says. “You may have antibodies against the disease you contracted one year ago, but the new one that’s coming now may not be exactly the same so your antibodies you’ve generated can’t recognize the new one.”

Jeffrey Joy, an assistant professor of evolutionary genetics at UBC, admits that making a vaccine mandatory is a complicated issue.

“On the one hand, you need to get the population up to the level of immunity to stop the spread of the virus,” he says. “On the other hand, there are people who can’t take a vaccine (due to underlining immune conditions) so they’d have to obviously be excluded.”

He adds that making a vaccine mandatory can potentially create backlash against vaccines in general. In order to avoid that, he believes there should be studies that examine the level of immunity needed to prevent the further spread of the virus. Then, conduct polls to gage the percentage of people who would get the vaccine once it becomes available.

“If there’s a discrepancy between what is needed and what people are willing to do, then maybe instead of making it mandatory, incentivize it, to get the population up to get to the level we need” he says.

Joy says the harm caused by not getting vaccinated is significant, especially for an older demographic, who are most at risk of the virus.

“I’d suggest people think about the older people in their lives,” he says. “They don’t want to harm them by not doing something that would be relatively easy to do.”

Yahoo Canada readers shared their range of views on Facebook and in the comments of articles. Here is a sample of what they had to say about whether Canadians should take a vaccine for COVID-19 when it becomes available.

In favour of the vaccine:

“I want to be able to leave my house, People want to go to work, shop, eat out, socialize, go to school, see family etc.. We need a vaccine. It is not going to happen tomorrow or anytime soon. But when it does, I am rolling up my sleeve.” - Pamela Perkins, Facebook commenter

“Likely would, especially if by doing so I could care for a family member that became infected.” - Randall V. Born, Facebook commenter

“I will read and study it, if it safe, why not? Better than injected myself with bleach or Clorox, sure some of you will rather take hydroxychloroquine instead😃”- Rosa Triani-Smith, Facebook commenter

“I would take it gladly if it were proven safe. I take the flu vaccine every year and haven't had the flu in 15 years or so.” - Ross Robertson, Facebook commenter

“Well being a senior I will happily take the vaccine as soon as it is available. People have to make their own choices of course, but the potential of death if I contract this disease is a significant motivator.” - Anson W, Yahoo Canada commenter

Against the vaccine:

“I haven’t had a vaccine in 35 years, I don’t plan on starting now. My grandma that is still alive is 94 and hasn’t had a single vaccine, and she won’t start with this one either.” - Shannon Marek, Facebook commenter

“What about when the next virus comes along, or the next? Will we all have to go into hiding for months while we wait for a vaccine. I’d rather take Zinc and Vitamin D, and other supplements, preventatively. I’ve been doing that for a decade, guess when I last had cold or flu?” - Magnus Dell, Facebook commenter

“I rely on herd immunity. I will only get it IF my doctor does his research and approves based off my pre-existing health conditions. I don't need/want any strange side-effects.” - Marian Kita, Facebook commenter

“As with any vaccines some will have side effects including death. Each person will have to decide if they want the vaccine. Some will not take it. Those undecided will watch and see and decide later.” - Big Bird, Yahoo Canada commenter