A vaccine is put into the body (usually through injection) to make people immune from a disease. Another word for immune is “protect.” Vaccine hesitancy occurs when people will not take a vaccine, or they wait to take a vaccine. Vaccines prevent millions of deaths each year. But many individuals still do not want to take vaccines. As a consequence, some diseases have reappeared. And it can stop herd immunity. Herd immunity happens when most people are immune from a disease. Herd immunity stops the spread of disease. The World Health Organization says that vaccine hesitancy is a serious threat. In fact, it stated that it is one of the “Top Ten Threats to Global Health.”
This article is a plain-language summary of Vaccination and Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Vaccination and Vaccine Hesitance in Canada.
Vaccine Regulations in Canada
Vaccine Hesitancy and Outbreaks in Canada
The Canadian government hopes that 95 per cent of children will receive all vaccines for childhood diseases. The percentage is lower, though. Since 2005 there have been many outbreaks of diseases that could have been prevented if more people took vaccines. Some of the diseases that have spread were measles and mumps.
Reasons for Vaccine Hesitancy
People are worried about vaccines for several reasons. Some are worried that the contents in the vaccine are not safe. Others believe that they actually cause diseases and other medical conditions such as autism. Some are scared that the government has too much control over their lives. They worry about losing their rights. Some parents worry that the vaccines can hurt their children.
Concerns about Vaccine Hesitancy
Vaccination hesitancy has helped spread diseases like measles and smallpox. It could also result in the return of diseases that have almost disappeared like polio, diphtheria and whooping cough. Vaccine hesitancy has made many people concerned. There have been debates surrounding individual rights and group rights.
Individual Rights vs. the Public Good
Herd immunity is needed to stop the spread of diseases. However, Canadians are not forced to take vaccines. This means Canadians are free to make their own choices. So, Canadians have been very hesitant to accept mandatory vaccinations. This means Canadians are in a dilemma, weighing the importance of individual rights and the public good. This dilemma became even more complicated in the 21st century. For example, many Canadians came to believe that vaccines could be linked to autism. The theory has been proved wrong. In addition to this, some people known as “influencers” (online influencers) have created distrust of vaccines. They claim that vaccines are not as safe as the government and pharmaceutical companies say.
Vaccine Hesitancy and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Vaccine hesitancy became a very important issue because of the COVID-19 pandemic. By November 2022 approximately 47,000 Canadians had died. Worldwide, the death toll was 6.6 million. To stop the spread, vaccines were developed (see Covid-19 Vaccines). Most Canadians got vaccinated. By November 2022, 80 per cent were fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated means they got two doses.
Many Canadians choose not to get vaccinated, for several reasons. They do not trust medical professionals. They do not trust the government. Many believe that the government has used and is still using the pandemic to control the population. Some believe in conspiracy theories, including one that claims microchips are implanted in vaccines. Others have suggested that there was not enough testing of vaccines.
Although there is a lot of vaccine hesitancy in Canada, vaccines have contributed greatly to stopping the spread of COVID-19. Fewer and fewer Canadian have become seriously ill since the introduction of the vaccines.