Two-thirds of Canadians believe that children should not be allowed to attend daycare or school unless they have received all their recommended childhood vaccinations, a new poll shows.

But the survey, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, also reveals significant generational and regional differences.

In Ontario and Alberta, for example, parents support mandatory vaccination over voluntary vaccination by a ratio of 4 to 1 – but in Quebec parents are almost evenly split on the issue. Parents of young children are significantly less likely to support mandatory shots (56 per cent) than parents whose children are already grown up (71 per cent), the poll shows.

“Generally speaking, older Canadians are more supportive and less equivocal about vaccination than younger ones,” Shachi Kurl, vice-president of Angus Reid Institute, said in an interview. “At some point, generationally, scientists and public health officials seem to have lost the ear of the public.”

Ms. Kurl was quick to add that this drop in support – or, rather, increase in doubt – is subtle rather than overwhelming. “At the end of the day, the take-away message is that Canadians think vaccines are effective, but they have some doubts,” she said.

The survey comes as vaccination has re-emerged as a hot-button issue in the wake of a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland and has mostly affected children who have not been vaccinated.

It shows that 88 per cent of Canadians think vaccination is effective for preventing disease in individuals, and 86 per cent think it benefits the community. Again, there is a significant gap between the beliefs of adults aged 18-34 and those over the age of 55, with the younger group being more skeptical.

A significant minority of those polled, 39 per cent, believe the science of vaccination isn’t clear. That ranged from 44 per cent in the younger demographic to 34 per cent in the older group.

While support for vaccination is high, a large number of those surveyed, 28 per cent, also expressed the belief that there is a “real risk of serious effects from vaccination.” The number was highest in the 18-34 demographic – 38 per cent – and lowest among baby boomers, 20 per cent.

The online survey of 1,509 adults was conducted from Feb. 9-11. The results are considered accurate within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, the polling firm says.

and PUBLIC HEALTH REPORTER — The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Feb. 13 2015, 12:01 AM EST
Last updated Friday, Feb. 13 2015, 12:01 AM EST