With the recent increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, public health officials are pointing to young adults aged 18 to 29 choosing not to get vaccinated as a major factor spurring infections.
According to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, there is a lot of concern surrounding COVID-19 vaccination rates among young adults in Canada. Dr. Tam stated to Global News that she is worried about the fact that not enough young Canadians are receiving their vaccines and how the rate of first-dose shots is lagging.
Dr. Tam said younger Canadians are socializing more and can infect older Canadians who already have been vaccinated, even those who might be more vulnerable to the disease regardless of whether they have received both doses of the vaccine. Dr. Tam reiterates how the COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to reduce infection rates, however, there is evidence that those who still get COVID-19 end up having very mild symptoms, if any at all.
Dr. Liane Ginsburg, a professor in the School of Health Policy and Management, shares her thoughts on the reasoning behind young adults aged 18 to 29 who are choosing not to get vaccinated, and how much of an impact those decisions can have on the overall COVID-19 response.
“People choosing not to get vaccinated are likely using an individual rather than a community or societal lens as they make their decision. In particular, some may not see COVID-19 as a significant threat or risk to themselves or people in their family. Others may be resisting requests to get vaccinated, choosing to see such requests or requirements as an infringement on their personal freedoms.”
Dr. Ginsburg emphasizes the importance of young adults receiving their vaccines and explains how this can be in the best interest of society as a whole.
“The ramifications of viewing vaccination through an individual lens — where those less at risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19 choose not to get vaccinated — is that it does not move us, as a society, closer to the shared goal that we all have, which is to find a way out of the pandemic so we can return to something that resembles ‘normal.’ Young people choosing not to get vaccinated may also be exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 as they are at higher risk of transmitting the virus.”
Dr. Ginsburg also shares her thoughts on how the government can further promote vaccinations among young adults, and how this can effectively address the challenges associated with ending the pandemic.
“Governments need to emphasize that Canadians are united in our wish to find a way out of the pandemic, while experts believe higher vaccination rates are the most promising lever for achieving this shared goal. Although we value individual freedom, there are situations where public health trumps individual freedom, and right now there is a strong public health justification for vaccine requirements,” they say.
Dr. Dasantila Golemi-Kotra, a professor in the department of biology, explains how she feels about the work that the government has done thus far in encouraging young people to get vaccinated.
“The best way to get young people to listen to the health experts’ advice is through education, which can make a long-lasting impact on their trust in the health system and make the vaccines and the advice accessible to them through their platform of interest.
“As the virus evolves and becomes more infectious and transmissible, younger people are suffering from severe COVID-19 symptoms in the third and fourth wave. They are constantly bombarded with misinformation on the benefits and risks of vaccines. There is less presence of health experts in social media.”
Dr. Kotra further states that not getting vaccinated could have a severe impact on the future of COVID-19 as well.
“The ferocious spread of the Delta variant and its impact on the population (primarily among the unvaccinated) has made us realize that no one is really protected unless more than 85 per cent of the population is vaccinated. And that is where the significance of vaccinating the young people becomes essential to curb the pandemic, especially in the current situation where children younger than 12 years old cannot get vaccinated.”
As young adults are being encouraged to receive their vaccinations as soon as possible, they are also being reminded that this pandemic requires everyone’s effort if Canada hopes to get back to normal, and to be mindful of those around them who are more vulnerable in this crisis.