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Students wait to enter the Pierre Laporte Secondary School as students returned to class full time during the COVID-19 pandemic in Montreal, on March 29, 2021.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

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.

During the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, children at school were taught to “duck and cover” and crawl under their desks to protect themselves from nuclear annihilation. Fast forward a generation, and now our public-health officials tell us to “jab and cover” – get the vaccine and wear a mask to avoid getting sick.

In the 1950s, everyone generally agreed to get under their school desk to stay safe. Today there are impending storm clouds of resistance to what should be a common-sense response – and that’s going to affect whether kids are sitting at their desks for the coming school year, or back in virtual classrooms.

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On the upside, the rate of first vaccinations in Canada is trending positively. More than seven in 10 Canadians have received their first shot and the country has catapulted from laggard to leader, even outpacing the United States in the first-jab race.

COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada

In millions, as of June 15

32.9 million

doses distributed

30

29.9 million

doses administered

20

10

5.24 million

fully vaccinated

0

Jan.

2021

Feb.

March

April

May

June

Note: Total number of people calculated based on two-dose shots from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca and single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson.

COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada

In millions, as of June 15

32.9 million

doses distributed

30

29.9 million

doses administered

20

10

5.24 million

fully vaccinated

0

Jan.

2021

Feb.

March

April

May

June

Note: Total number of people calculated based on two-dose shots from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca and single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson.

COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada

In millions, as of June 15

32.9 million

doses distributed

30

29.9 million

doses administered

20

10

5.24 million

fully vaccinated

0

Jan.

2021

Feb.

March

April

May

June

Note: Total number of people calculated based on two-dose shots from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca and single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson.

Breakdown of partially vaccinated people, by age and gender

Age group

Male

Female

0-11

0.4%

0.4%

12-17

36.7

38.7

18-29

47.1

51.9

30-39

54.9

56.4

40-49

63.0

63.5

50-59

68.1

68.2

60-69

76.0

75.9

70-79

76.0

75.2

80+

58.6

51.8

Note: Data are as of June 5 and lag behind the national figures.

Breakdown of partially vaccinated people, by age and gender

Age group

Male

Female

0-11

0.4%

0.4%

12-17

36.7

38.7

18-29

47.1

51.9

30-39

54.9

56.4

40-49

63.0

63.5

50-59

68.1

68.2

60-69

76.0

75.9

70-79

76.0

75.2

80+

58.6

51.8

Note: Data are as of June 5 and lag behind the national figures.

Breakdown of partially vaccinated people, by age and gender

Male

Female

Age group

0-11

0.4%

0.4%

12-17

36.7

38.7

18-29

47.1

51.9

30-39

54.9

56.4

40-49

63.0

63.5

50-59

68.1

68.2

60-69

76.0

75.9

70-79

76.0

75.2

80+

58.6

51.8

Note: Data are as of June 5 and lag behind the national figures.

Last December, Statistics Canada estimated that more than three-quarters of Canadians over 12 are very or somewhat willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The top reasons for any vaccine hesitancy were concern about safety or risks of side effects.

The good news is that a very big majority have voluntarily opted for the shot. But what about those who give it a pass?

Although a strong majority of Canadians have taken the vaccine and are open to taking it, according to a survey by Nanos for The Globe and Mail, one in three Canadians disagreed (21 per cent) or somewhat disagreed (14 per cent) that the COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory. And the majority of those open to receiving the vaccine become less comfortable when the word “mandatory” is added to the mix, or when reports hit the news about side effects from vaccines experienced by children or teenagers.

The big question is: Once the pandemic is under control, how will the majority of pro-jabbers get along with the minority vaccine-hesitant? A new survey for CTV News suggests that schools could be the next battleground between majority pro-vax Canadians and the minority who are opting out.

For the past year, parents and students have been on a roller coaster. Students are sent to school. Students are sent home for remote learning. Students have both in-person and remote learning. The only certainty was uncertainty. All the while, parents juggled working from home, looking after the family and overseeing their children’s online classes. The desire for normalcy and stability in parents’ day-to-day lives may very well smack up against the uncomfortable social question: “Are you vaccinated – and are your kids vaccinated?”

About 6 in 10 Canadians oppose (33 per cent) or somewhat oppose (26 per cent) allowing students who refuse to get vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus to go to school in person. One in three support (20 per cent) or somewhat support (14 per cent) unvaccinated students attending school in person. If one happens to be middle-aged – coincidentally the age cohort most likely to have children – your comfort in having unvaccinated students in school rises to 41 per cent.

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Will be taking the vaccine when it becomes available

Definitely

68%

Probably

19

Unsure

4

Probably not

4

Definitely not

5

Views on the vaccine being mandatory for Canadians

Agree

29%

Somewhat

agree

34

Unsure

3

Somewhat

disagree

14

Disagree

21

Support for students who refuse the vaccine being allowed to go to school in person

Support

20%

Somewhat

support

14

Unsure

7

Somewhat

oppose

26

Oppose

33

Note: Numbers may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

GRAPHICS BY MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCES: NANOS RESEARCH; PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCY OF CANADA; PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

Will be taking the vaccine when it becomes available

Definitely

68%

Probably

19

Unsure

4

Probably not

4

Definitely not

5

Views on the vaccine being mandatory for Canadians

Agree

29%

Somewhat

agree

34

Unsure

3

Somewhat

disagree

14

Disagree

21

Support for students who refuse the vaccine being allowed to go to school in person

Support

20%

Somewhat

support

14

Unsure

7

Somewhat

oppose

26

Oppose

33

Note: Numbers may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

GRAPHICS BY MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCES: NANOS RESEARCH; PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCY OF CANADA; PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

Will be taking the vaccine when it becomes available

Definitely

68%

Probably

19

Unsure

4

Probably not

4

Definitely not

5

Views on the vaccine being mandatory for Canadians

Agree

29%

Somewhat agree

34

Unsure

3

Somewhat disagree

14

Disagree

21

Support for students who refuse the vaccine being allowed to go to school in person

Support

20%

Somewhat support

14

Unsure

7

Somewhat oppose

26

Oppose

33

Note: Numbers may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

GRAPHICS BY MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCES: NANOS RESEARCH; PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCY OF CANADA; PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

The requirement for student immunization for traditional health threats such as diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles and the like are well-established and include standard exemptions such as medical reasons or due to conscience or religious belief. But the pandemic and variants of the COVID-19 virus represent new threats to public health. Setting aside medical reasons, are reasons of personal conscience or religious beliefs sufficient to allow unvaccinated children in classrooms? And if they remain at home, will those students get the same participation marks as those who attend in person? In our universities, how difficult will it be for students to get academic referrals for graduate school from university professors they have never met?

Hard to tell.

What we do know is that this next phase of the pandemic will trigger some big questions about vaccinations – who could, should or must get the jab, and what it might mean for the future.

In that respect, the canary in the coal mine will be this fall’s returning school year as parents, students, teachers, unions and administrators grapple with some thorny and awkward questions that will make the days of “duck and cover” seem simple by comparison.

More Data Dives with Nik Nanos

Data Dive with Nik Nanos: Canadians are losing the mental-health battle against COVID-19

Data Dive with Nik Nanos: Will O’Toole be a political ‘Survivor,’ or will climate-change policy get Tories voted off the island?

Data Dive with Nik Nanos: If Canada and China can fix ties, does the public want them to?


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