Canadians surveyed by Health Canada during a series of focus groups reacted negatively to several aspects of a mass campaign to encourage Covid-19 vaccination.

When presented with a series of concept videos on the topics of getting a booster vaccine and vaccinating children, participants raised concerns about federal directives to get a Covid-19 shot because they were too “bossy” and “authoritative.”

The $233,291 survey was conducted by Quorus Consulting Group Inc. on behalf of the department and included 45 focus groups between March 15, 2021 to July 28, 2022. 

“The main weakness in the concept was the part of the tagline in both storyboards that reads “Get vaccinated” as many participants believe that getting vaccinated remains a choice and that they are not receptive to any messaging that is telling them what do to,” wrote Health Canada.

Participants also perceived the order to “get vaccinated” as “an order rather than a suggestion” and that it was “too authoritative.” 

“A concern raised by a few participants was that the ad seemed unrealistic because it seemed to suggest that if children get vaccinated, they can immediately start socializing, which to them seemed to contradict suggestions by public health authorities,” explained researchers.

“A few also felt the tagline was a bit “bossy” and should suggest parents get their children vaccinated rather than telling them to do so.” 

Focus group subjects also reacted strongly to ads instructing children to get vaccinated with some seeing the ad as “threatening.”

“Alternatively, some participants perceived the ad as threatening, thinking that it was suggesting children would not be able to return to fall activities if they did not get vaccinated. As well, a few felt that it played on guilt rather than factual information by leaving the viewer feeling like they are bad parents if they choose not to vaccinate their children,” explained researchers. 

Earlier this year the City of Toronto had to pause a child vaccination campaign over similar concerns after facing public backlash over videos showing unvaccinated children being prevented from playing outside. 

City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross told True North that the ads were “designed to engage parents and caregivers about the availability and efficacy of vaccines for children.”

“(They) have all been paused while being reviewed to ensure the messages are clear and unambiguous.” 

Canadians in the Health Canada study were also concerned about the neutrality of the experts presented to them as authorities by the federal government.

“For the most part, participants are looking for someone who is above all neutral and unbiased, meaning they are not connected to the pharmaceutical companies producing the vaccines, nor are they connected to the government, who, for many, is seen as predisposed to wanting Canadians to get vaccinated,” a research summary reads. 

As exclusively reported by True North, several media outlets throughout Canada failed to disclose the pharmaceutical funding of medical professionals presented in reporting as experts on Covid-19 vaccination.