A majority of people in B.C. and Alberta think childhood vaccinations should be mandatory, and not decided by parents, according to a new poll by Insights West.
In British Columbia, 78 per cent of survey respondents supported mandatory vaccines for childhood diseases such as polio and measles in the online poll. Alberta respondents showed 73 per cent support.
Mario Canseco of Insights West said he found the widespread support interesting, given how divisive the vaccination issue has been in the media.
"It's pretty hard to get seven out of 10 residents in the western provinces to say we agree with something, we tend to be very different."
Only about one in five respondents said they thought parents should be the ones deciding whether their kids are vaccinated.
"There's this minority that seems to believe there's something wrong with the vaccinations and that it should be left to the parents to decide whether they want to do it or not," said Canseco.
In the Vancouver area, about 73 per cent of schoolchildren have their recommended immunizations, but in several schools, less than half of kindergarten students have been vaccinated for measles.
B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake has dismissed the idea of mandatory vaccination, saying the requirement doesn't increase immunization rates.
Little support for mandatory flu vaccine
The flu vaccine did not get the same widespread support in the poll as childhood immunizations for measles and polio.
When asked whether "everybody" in the province should have to get a flu shot, just 19 per cent of British Columbians and 21 per cent of Albertans agreed.
The flu vaccine is recommended by health officials, especially for vulnerable people and those who care for them, but varies year to year in how well it works.
Last winter, it gave "no protection," due to a mismatch between circulating strains of the flu and what was in the vaccine, according to a study from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
The Insights West poll also found a small minority — less than five per cent — of respondents believed the debunked claim of a link between autism and childhood vaccines, which was promoted by a fraudulent and now-retracted 1998 study.