Wave 13

COSMO Canada

Implementing the WHO Behavioural Insights tool on COVID-19 to inform response efforts, including policy, interventions and communications.


To support federal response efforts, Impact Canada is leading the implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Behavioural Insights (BI) Tool on COVID-19 in the Canadian context. This work is led in collaboration with the Public Opinion Research Team within the Privy Council Office’s (PCO) Communications and Consultation Secretariat, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office in coordinating government communications in accordance with key priorities.

+ Learn more


With a longitudinal design, the study follows 2,000 participants recruited from an online panel over sixteen data collection waves. New participants are added only when an original panelist stops participating.

Respondents are a representative mix of Canadian adults aged 18 years and older and results are weighted using 2016 Statistics Canada census data to mirror the population distribution in Canada.


When interpreting the COSMO results it is useful to keep in mind the context of the data collection period, which may or may not have influenced the responses of survey participants. During the Wave 13 data collection period (May 5-12, 2021):

  1. Canada was experiencing its third wave and many provinces introduced or extended strict restrictions. Notably, cases were beginning to decline in countries with widespread access to vaccines (e.g., UK, Israel, US).
  2. The national COVID-19 case numbers in Canada as of May 5 (the day data collection began) were 82,700 active cases.
  3. The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines had been approved for use in Canada and approximately 34.5% of the Canadian population had received one dose of a vaccine (as of May 5). On the first day of data collection, Health Canada announced that Canadians 12 years and older were eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
  4. There continued to be significant media coverage of the AstraZeneca vaccine and its potential side effects. Some provinces, including Ontario, paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. On May 3, NACI advised that mRNA vaccines (such as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines) are “preferred” relative to non-mRNA vaccines (such as the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines).
  5. Media coverage during the data collection period also focused heavily on the new, more contagious COVID-19 variants. Prior to the data collection period, the federal government imposed a ban on all commercial and private flights from India and Pakistan, due to the rise of variant cases – highlighting the continued risk of imported COVID-19 cases.


This report focuses on the results for the thirteenth wave of this research. 2,083 Canadians aged 18 and older were surveyed between May 5 to 12, 2021. The data was weighted to ensure that the sample distribution reflects the actual Canadian adult population according to Statistics Canada census data. There is no associated margin of error for the results, since a non-probability design means that results cannot be projected to the larger population.


Public Risk Perceptions

In Wave 13 the number of respondents who indicated “we are currently experiencing the worst of the crisis” increased 18 points, after a decline in Waves 11 and 12. Those who say “the worst of the crisis is yet to come” was at its lowest point since data collection began (17% still say the worst is yet to come, compared to 52% in April 2020). Consistent with previous waves, younger respondents are most optimistic – respondents aged 18-34 are more likely to think that “the worst of the crisis is behind us” (35%), compared to 26% of respondents aged 35-54 and 22% of respondents 55+. In addition, the proportion of respondents who think that COVID-19 feels like it is “spreading fast,” increased 13 points from 40% in Wave 12 to 53% in Wave 13.

+ View more

Information Sources

Trust in and use of government information sources (e.g., federal public health leaders, daily press conferences) was highest early on in the pandemic and has declined slowly since. In Wave 13, trust in government information sources about COVID-19 declined again after rebounding slightly in Wave 12 (see figure below). Trust was the highest in government health agencies (50%), Government of Canada websites (47%) and provincial public health leaders (46%)

+ View more


Compliance with Protective Behaviours

Using a split sample, half of COSMO respondents were asked how important it is to continue to adhere to measures after full vaccination (i.e., two doses), and half were asked how important it is after partial vaccination (i.e., one dose). Overall most respondents indicated that it was “important” to continue to adhere to public health measures such as hand hygiene, staying home when sick, and quarantining after exposure to COVID-19 post full and partial vaccination.

+ View more

Mental Health & Well-being

Reported life satisfaction remained stable between Waves 12 and 13. Just over a third of respondents (41%) are very satisfied/ satisfied with their lives, while 21% are very dissatisfied/dissatisfied. High numbers of respondents continue to report feeling fatigued (53%), burnt-out (45%), anxious (43%), lonely (39%), and depressed (39%) either occasionally or most/all of the time.

+ View more

Vaccine Confidence

Wave 13 included a set of hypothetical scenarios to determine what measures, if any, may motivate respondents who had not yet received a vaccine to get vaccinated right away. Some of the measures tested included: receiving a financial reward from the Government, receiving paid time off from employers, and vaccines being mandatory to engage in certain activities. All measures were most effective in increasing the likelihood of vaccination for those who already intend to be vaccinated right away, and less effective for those who want to wait or who are unsure. Respondents who do not intend to be vaccinated reported that these measures would increase their likelihood of being vaccinated at much lower rates and, in many cases, these respondents indicated that the measures would make them less likely to be vaccinated.

+ View more

Travel Intentions and Border Measures

A majority of respondents indicated that they would like to see both US restrictions (82%) and international restrictions (82%) remain in place for 1-6+ months (see figure below). Respondents are less supportive of long-term domestic closures. Despite the rollout of vaccines, travel intentions and intentions to fly on a plane within the next year remain low. There is also low comfort with increasing travel with certain countries. The only country where respondents have become somewhat more comfortable with increased travel is Australia (13% in Wave 9, 17% in Wave 11, 19% in Wave 12 and 23% in Wave 13).

+ View more

Next steps

The Impact Canada Behavioural Science team will use a series of statistical analyses to look for patterns in the data, allowing us to answer questions like:

  • How do intentions to vaccinate change over time?
  • How do changes in trust in government information sources affect changes in intentions to vaccinate over time?
  • How do individual-level characteristics (e.g., gender, baseline knowledge or anxiety, infection status) affect changes in intentions to vaccinate over time?
  • How do interactions between gender and trust in government information sources affect changes in intentions to vaccinate over time?

Contact us

To learn more or explore working with us, please contact the Impact and Innovation Unit of the Privy Council Office.

Email us