Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Outside Langer's Deli in Los Angeles, a sign warns prospective patrons that they'll need proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to be served. California has vaccine mandates for settings like schools, hospitals and long-term care homes, and some municipalities have additional rules. Canadian provinces are also rethinking their own proof-of-vaccination policies.

PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Nik Nanos is the chief data scientist at Nanos Research, a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, a research professor at the State University of New York in Buffalo and the official pollster for The Globe and Mail and CTV News.

There’s a new complication to deal with in our schools, workplaces and public gathering spaces: what to do about the willfully unvaccinated. For people who could get vaccinated but are either hesitant or resistant, their personal choice to abstain is impinging on the opinion of the majority.

Self-isolation, physical distancing and telework have acted like buffers, allowing social interactions to remain cordial between friends and family members with differing opinions. However, as efforts begin to return to some form of normalcy, those buffers are thinning out.

Story continues below advertisement

A recent survey by Nanos suggests that there is strong support to require proof of vaccination in a number of settings, but the majority of Canadians are “social avoiders” when it comes to disagreements with the other side.

Asked what they would do if a good friend disagreed as to whether people should get vaccinated, the top response was to avoid the topic of vaccinations and continue to hang out (46 per cent), while another 34 per cent said they would avoid seeing the friend in person but remain friends. A little less than one in 20 would stop being friends (4 per cent).

DISAGREEMENTS WITH A FRIEND OVER VACCINATION

Avoid the topic of vaccinations and continue to hang out

46%

Avoid seeing the friend in person but remain friends

34

Stop being their friend

4

Discuss the topic of vaccinations

4

Maintain physical distancing / meet outdoors / wear masks

2

Encourage them to get vaccinated

3

Other

1

Unsure

6

DISAGREEMENTS WITH A FRIEND OVER VACCINATION

Avoid the topic of vaccinations and continue to hang out

46%

Avoid seeing the friend in person but remain friends

34

Stop being their friend

4

Discuss the topic of vaccinations

4

Maintain physical distancing / meet outdoors / wear masks

2

Encourage them to get vaccinated

3

Other

1

Unsure

6

DISAGREEMENTS WITH A FRIEND OVER VACCINATION

46%

Avoid the topic of vaccinations and continue to hang out

Avoid seeing the friend in person but remain friends

Stop being their friend

Discuss the topic of vaccinations

Maintain physical distancing/ meet outdoors/ wear masks

Encourage them to get vaccinated

Other

Unsure

34

4

4

2

3

1

6

In our interactions with friends, we are polite. However, as private citizens, very substantial majorities of Canadians want to drop the vaccination hammer and are uneasy about stepping into places where people are not fully vaccinated. They want proof of vaccination to engage in activities such as travel and large-scale sporting or arts events.

The return to schools in September will see the first wave of vaccination challenges, heightened by the fact that children under 12 do not have the option of getting vaccinated. Research suggests that about seven in 10 Canadians are uncomfortable (45 per cent) or somewhat uncomfortable (26 per cent) sending students to school if some teachers are not fully vaccinated. Perceptions are directly related to age. About 55 per cent of Canadians under 34 years of age are uncomfortable to one degree or another. This discomfort jumps to 84 per cent among those 55 and over.

The vaccination appetite for teachers also extends to students. More than six in 10 Canadians (64 per cent) are not keen on sending students in person if some students are not fully vaccinated. The key takeaway is that the desire for action includes both teachers and students.

When it comes to other public settings, the concern about returning to in-person interactions where folks might not be vaccinated remains significant. More than seven in 10 people are uncomfortable (48 per cent) or somewhat uncomfortable (25 per cent) visiting a hospital if some health care workers are not fully vaccinated, and two of three Canadians would have some concern showing up to work if colleagues are not fully vaccinated.

Proof of vaccinations would be welcome by very strong majorities of Canadians. For example, more than eight of 10 Canadians are comfortable (76 per cent) or somewhat comfortable (9 per cent) requiring proof of vaccination to take air travel, with very similar views around taking a long-distance train or taking a large-scale in-person sporting or arts event.

Story continues below advertisement

LEVEL OF COMFORT IN CERTAIN SCENARIOS RELATED TO VACCINATIONS

Comfortable

Somewhat comfortable

Unsure

Somewhat uncomfortable

Uncomfortable

Requiring a proof of vaccination

to take air travel

3

76%

9

12

Requiring a proof of vaccination

to take a long-distance train

4

70%

12

13

Requiring a proof of vaccination to attend

large-scale in-person sporting or arts events

70%

11

5

14

Showing up to work in person if some work

colleagues were not fully vaccinated

19%

14

25

41

Sending students to school in person if some

students were not fully vaccinated

17%

17

31

33

Visiting a hospital if some health care workers

were not fully vaccinated

16%

11

25

48

Sending students to school in person if some

teachers were not fully vaccinated

15%

12

26

45

Note: Numbers may not add up to 100 because of rounding.

LEVEL OF COMFORT IN CERTAIN SCENARIOS RELATED TO VACCINATIONS

Comfortable

Somewhat comfortable

Unsure

Somewhat uncomfortable

Uncomfortable

Requiring a proof of vaccination

to take air travel

3

76%

9

12

Requiring a proof of vaccination

to take a long-distance train

4

70%

12

13

Requiring a proof of vaccination to attend large-scale

in-person sporting or arts events

70%

11

5

14

Showing up to work in person if some work

colleagues were not fully vaccinated

19%

14

25

41

Sending students to school in person if some

students were not fully vaccinated

17%

17

31

33

Visiting a hospital if some health care workers

were not fully vaccinated

16%

11

25

48

Sending students to school in person if some

teachers were not fully vaccinated

15%

12

26

45

Note: Numbers may not add up to 100 because of rounding.

LEVEL OF COMFORT IN CERTAIN SCENARIOS

RELATED TO VACCINATIONS

Unsure

Uncomfortable

Comfortable

Somewhat

comfortable

Somewhat

uncomfortable

Requiring a proof of vaccination to take air travel

76%

9

3

12

Requiring a proof of vaccination to take a long-distance train

70%

12

4

13

Requiring a proof of vaccination to attend large-scale in-person sporting or arts events

70%

11

5

14

Showing up to work in person if some work colleagues were not fully vaccinated

19%

14

2

25

41

Sending students to school in person if some students were not fully vaccinated

17%

17

2

31

33

Visiting a hospital if some health care workers were not fully vaccinated

16%

11

25

48

Sending students to school in person if some teachers were not fully vaccinated

15%

12

26

45

Note: Numbers may not add up to 100 because of rounding.

The challenge for public-health officials is that the silent majority of people are more likely to prefer avoiding conflict with their unvaccinated friends, neighbours and co-workers. In politics, the squeaky wheel gets the attention. This explains why some politicians have been hesitant to take a hard position on the minority group choosing to be unvaccinated.

On the one hand, there is a minority that feels the pressure to be vaccinated and sees their freedom of choice under siege. On the other hand is the silent majority that feels the unvaccinated are a risk to their, or their children’s, health and freedom. Most Canadians have indicated that they would rather avoid conflict on this very touchy topic. A paltry 4 per cent of Canadians said they would discuss vaccinations with a good friend if there was a disagreement. But the research shows that they would welcome a harder position by health authorities and politicians.

Is choice a valid consideration in the development of vaccination policy? Yes. Does the freedom to not be vaccinated automatically override the public good? No. Our social contract as citizens is based on the recognition of a diversity of opinion but within the context of the broader public good. One’s right to throw a punch ends where the other person’s nose begins. Setting aside individuals who have medical reasons to be unvaccinated, the consequences of remaining unvaccinated should be clear.

Canadians understand that vaccinations help manage the spread of the virus and minimize the seriousness of any future infection. As the path to normalcy gets slowed because of surges in infections and hospitalizations primarily among the unvaccinated, the patience of Canadians might start to wear thin with loved ones, friends and neighbours who have not been voluntarily vaccinated – and our politicians who resist taking a stand.

Our political leaders should take note of the views of Canadians. Very strong majorities support proof of vaccination for travel and large gatherings. Many Canadians are uncomfortable with the risk of being exposed to unvaccinated individuals whether it be at school or in hospitals. They are looking for leadership to spare them from the uncomfortable conversations.


Notes on the data

This column was based on a survey sponsored by Nanos Research. The RDD dual frame hybrid telephone and online national random survey of Canadians conducted between July 30 and Aug. 2, 2021, and was comprised of 1,002 individuals. This is study is accurate 3.1 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20. The report with full methodologies and their technical notes are posted at www.nanos.co.


Vaccine passports: The case for and against

The Globe and Mail's news podcast, The Decibel, let two experts weigh the merits of a system to give vaccinated people access to more public amenities in Canada: Restaurateur Jacob Wharton-Shukster arguing in favour, Cara Zwibel of the the Canadian Civil Liberties Association arguing against. Subscribe for more episodes.


Peace Tower on Parliament Hill Nanos on the election: Follow the latest polls

Together with Nanos Research and CTV, The Globe and Mail is doing daily surveys to track which party and leader Canadians prefer. Check for daily results through the campaign

Read more

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies