Dr. Catherine Carstairs
Dr.. Catherine Carstairs

If Canadians need additional booster vaccines against COVID-19, but case counts drop and risks appear low, will people still line up at vaccine clinics?

A University of Guelph researcher says history suggests there may be challenges to convincing Canadians to get further shots.

Dr. Catherine Carstairs is a professor in U of G’s Department of History who studies the history of health and medicine as well as 20th-century cultural and social history.

She is currently researching the social and cultural effects of COVID-19 on women, Indigenous peoples, recent immigrants and economically disadvantaged populations

In a commentary for Conversation Canada she co-wrote with graduate student Curtis Fraser, Carstairs traces the history of vaccination programs in Canada and notes that enthusiasm for vaccines is often high in the middle of a crisis but diminishes after case numbers drop.

“People rush to get vaccines when they perceive an immediate health risk to themselves or their family members,” she and Fraser wrote. “But without that fear, it is easier to delay or avoid getting vaccinated.”

She said the biggest challenge for public health authorities may be ensuring the continued uptake of vaccines once the initial crisis of this pandemic has passed.

That will likely mean more measures to combat vaccine misinformation, as well as further work to ensure that vaccines are readily available and convenient to access.

Carstairs is available for interviews.


Dr. Catherine Carstairs