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Most Canadians willing to get vaccinated, and more stayed home at the beginning of 2021

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Released: 2021-05-27

From the start of the fall of 2020 to the start of 2021, the level of active COVID-19 cases rose rapidly across Canada, and more restrictions were implemented by the provinces to slow the spread of the virus. Around the same time, the first vaccines against COVID-19 were approved, giving Canadians some hope that the end of the pandemic could be on its way.

In the period of January to February 2021, a similar proportion of Canadians aged 12 and older indicated that they were willing to get a vaccine compared to the period of November to December 2020, though an increase was seen among those aged 35-49, compared with the same period in 2020. While observing an increase in the number of reported cases of COVID-19 and additional public health measures in some provinces, more Canadians took certain precautions to protect themselves or others against COVID-19, compared with November/December 2020. These results are based on data collected by the Canadian Community Health Survey, which has asked a series of questions related to the pandemic since September 2020.

Vaccine willingness increases for adults

In January/February 2021, the majority of Canadians aged 12 and older (82%) reported that they were somewhat or very likely to get the vaccine against COVID-19, a similar proportion to that reported at the end of 2020 (80%). Among the 82% willing to be vaccinated, 61% reported being very likely to get a vaccine, up from 54% in November/December. This points to a shift in the levels of willingness of Canadians from being somewhat likely to get vaccinated to being very likely to do so. The proportion of those reporting to be somewhat unlikely or very unlikely to get vaccinated remained stable at 18% in January/February 2021. While there was generally no change in overall vaccine willingness ("somewhat" and "very likely combined"), there was an increase seen among adults aged 35 to 49, up from 77% to 82%.

The presence of underlying health conditions is also an important element that Canadians must consider, in relation to the increased risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. In January/February 2021, Canadians with at least one underlying health condition were more likely to be willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine (85%), compared with those without any health conditions (81%).

Vaccine willingness was found to be higher, compared with the national average (82%), in Newfoundland and Labrador (87%) and British Columbia (87%). Among the rest of the provinces, no statistically significant differences were found.

In January/February 2021, among people designated as a visible minority, 78% reported that they were somewhat or very likely to get a vaccine, a lower proportion than those not designated as a visible minority (84%). In particular, among Black Canadians, the proportion indicating they were willing to be vaccinated was lower (63%) in January/February, compared with those who were not visible minorities.

Among Indigenous peoples, 79% of First Nations and 75% of Métis reported that they were somewhat or very likely to get a COVID vaccine, similar to the proportion in November/December (78% and 75%, respectively).

More Canadians stayed at home following increased public health measures

With the increasing number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in late 2020, several provincial governments increased their public health restrictions to combat the resurgence of the pandemic. Following those increased measures in most provinces, in the first 2 months of 2021, a higher proportion of Canadians aged 12 and older (87%) reported staying home by avoiding leaving the house for non-essential reasons, compared with 81% in November/December 2020. The increase was seen among all age groups except those aged 12 to 17, where the difference was not statistically significant from the previous period.

The timeline of increased public health measures varies both by province and by region, and does not completely overlap with the January/February reference period. However, compared with November/December 2020, the proportion who reported staying home increased in Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan, each of these provinces being among those that had increased measures put in place sometime between mid-November and early January. Both Manitoba and British Columbia had also increased restrictions beginning in November, but no statistically significant difference was seen in the proportion of residents reporting they were staying home in January/February 2021 (87% in Manitoba, 78% in British Columbia). In January/February 2021, Ontario was the province with the highest proportion of people (93%) reporting that they avoided leaving their house for non-essential reasons.

Similarly, the proportion of Canadians indicating that they self-isolated if they had symptoms of COVID-19 was higher in January/February 2021 (79%) compared with November/December 2020 (73%). This change was also seen across all age groups aged 18 and older. For those aged 12 to 17, the difference from the previous period was not statistically significant.

Majority of Canadians continue to take core precautions

As the number of new COVID-19 cases reached what were (at the time) record highs in the first few weeks of 2021 in Canada, public health officials from all over the country reminded Canadians to continue taking the core precautions to help reduce new infections. In January/February 2021, the vast majority of Canadians reported continuing to avoid crowds or large gatherings (97%), to keep a 2 metre distance from others (97%) and to wash their hands more frequently (96%). One of the core recommendations of public health experts to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to wear a mask when it is difficult to keep physical distance between yourself and others. In January/February 2021, the overwhelming majority of Canadians (99%) wore a mask in public places where physical distancing was difficult—a slight increase from 98% from November/December 2020. Across all age groups, the proportion reporting mask wearing was above 98%.

  Note to readers

The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) is an annual survey that was adjusted during the pandemic to produce more timely estimates related to COVID-19. This analysis is based on CCHS data collected from January to February 2021. The sample of almost 8,000 respondents is representative of the Canadian population aged 12 years and older living in the provinces. Sampling and collection for the time period used in this analysis does not have adequate coverage to represent the entire population of the territories.

For additional CCHS data on COVID-19 related indicators by region, province, age group and gender, a table and data visualization are available: Table 13-10-0806-01 and Canadians' Health and COVID-19: Interactive Dashboard.

During the reference period of January/February 2021, COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved in Canada were only available to those aged 16 and older. The CCHS includes respondents aged 12 and older, and the analysis in this article includes the entire population, as the willingness of Canadians aged 12 to 15 will be valuable to assess following the recent approval on May 5 of the Pfizer vaccine for this age group.

Respondents were included in the analysis for the Indigenous population on the basis of their self-reported answer to "Are you an Aboriginal person, that is, First Nations, Métis or Inuk (Inuit)? First Nations includes Status and Non-Status Indians." The CCHS does not collect data on reserves. Consequently, the results discussed for First Nations people exclude those living on reserves, as well as Indigenous people in the territories or remote northern regions of the provinces which includes Inuit Nunangat.

Underlying health conditions include obesity, high blood pressure, currently having cancer, heart disease, diabetes, suffering from the effects of a stroke, or dementia (population aged 40 and older).

In this release, when two estimates are said to be different, this indicates that the difference was statistically significant at a 95% confidence level (p-value less than 5%).

For more information on survey definitions and methods, refer to the Statistics Canada survey information page: Canadian Community Health Survey.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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