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Data shows COVID-19 vaccination rates in Alberta tied to level of education

Last Updated Jun 15, 2021 at 9:17 pm EDT

EDMONTON (CityNews) — A new analysis comparing vaccine and census data in Alberta found a direct correlation between vaccination rates and level of education.

Economist Blake Shaffer, who works at the University of Calgary, pored over the data and determined that higher vaccination rates are linked to higher levels of education.

“Regions with a high per cent of people with no high school degree have very low levels of vaccination rates,” said Shaffer.

“Some regions like High Level, very low, below 30 per cent. So we’re trying to understand the reason behind that.”

Shaffer’s findings are backed up by other surveys.

“So it kind of corroborates, that’s a good thing,” he said. “We’ve got group level, real data corroborating with individual survey data.”

But Shaffer says it doesn’t mean those areas are filled with anti-vaxxers.

“Maybe those are areas where there isn’t easy access to vaccination centres,” he said. “Maybe it’s an area where people are primarily working jobs that don’t have the flexibility to go the Telus Centre from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and get vaccinated.”

The number of first vaccine doses in Canada has begun to slow, with slightly more than 70 cent of those aged 12 up having rolled up their sleeves. Only 35,000 Albertans got their first shot on Sunday – a four-month low.

Health policy expert Timothy Caulfield says while loud anti-vaxxers raised hesitancy for some Canadians, he believes the overwhelming positive data on vaccines is winning over reluctant minds.

“I think if you look at it nationally, it’s seven to eight per cent that are hardcore deniers,” said Caulfield.

“I do think at least from those individuals who are trying to be sensible and open-minded about the data, we are going to shrink to those hardcore deniers who are just incredibly difficult to change their minds.”

Alberta also launched a cash lottery to boost vaccine uptake. It’s likely aimed in part towards younger Albertans, who might not have been as impacted directly by COVID.

“We have to get creative, we have to get kind of gimmicky,” said Caulfield. “For those who are complacent, we need to use a vaccine strategy that gets this on their radar.”

Whether Canada’s vaccine uptake flatlines in the 70th percentile remains to be seen. But even if it does, the country remains one of the global leaders in getting that first shot.

“That’s in part a reflection of our strategy – first doses first,” said Shaffer. “But even countries that have ample supply – no supply constraints – we’re outpacing them, so that speaks to Canadians’ willingness to get vaccinated.”