Identifying strategies to (re)build trust in Canadian social institutions and increase public acceptance of COVID‑19 countermeasures
Canadians’ trust is critical for the acceptance of official countermeasures designed to reduce the transmission of SARS-COV-2. Problematic then is data reporting decline in the overall trust of political leadership in Canada (32% in 2021 vs. 39% in 2020), and reports on public concerns with the way the pandemic has been handled (e.g. significant criticism regarding the rollout of vaccines in comparison to other OECD countries). Anti-mask rallies, blatant disregard for restrictions related to social gatherings and circulation of disinformation regarding vaccine safety and efficacy suggest there is public distrust in social institutions, particularly with regards to the management of the pandemic. Through interviews and a national survey, we will identify the nature and extent of Canadians’ trust in social institutions, particularly as it relates to the acceptance of measures to reduce COVID‑19 transmission (e.g. vaccine uptake, social distancing, lockdowns, wearing a mask). Drawing on these data, we will develop tailored strategies to (re)build public trust in social institutions as a means for increasing public acceptance of measures. Through our established infrastructure for dissemination, we will target public health decision-makers, communication specialists and community leaders nationally. Our strategies will be promoted to individuals across social institutions involved in pandemic management, from high level government officials to individual public health units. Importantly, we will take a targeted approach to translation, identifying knowledge users as data illustrate populations where strategies to build trust are most needed. Ultimately our goal is to develop and disseminate real-time strategies that will (re)build trust in social institutions responsible for pandemic management to foster greater acceptance of measures to reduce SARS-COV-2 transmission.