New study finds most Americans strongly support vaccination requirement for K-12 students

Elementary school students sitting at desks

Dr. Simon Harder said school-age children had fewer preventive visits than other groups, making vaccine mandates particularly effective.

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A new study shows that most Americans overwhelmingly support requiring students in kindergarten through 12th grade to receive several common vaccines, even the COVID-19 vaccine.

In the United States, the connection between vaccination and public school attendance dates back to 1827, when Boston schools required students to be vaccinated against smallpox. In recent years, however, two groups — some parents of K-12 students and some policymakers — have been particularly vocal in their opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccines. Lately, opposition has spread to mandates that have been in place for decades.

Now, however, the first comprehensive assessment of U.S. public opinion on student vaccinations finds that those views are not widely shared.

Respondents supported the need for vaccines for K-12 students at 90%, including for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP); measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); polio; and chickenpox for COVID-19 The infection rate dropped to 68%. Other vaccines commonly mandated for students in public K-12 schools are the hepatitis vaccine and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, supported by 84% and 75% of respondents respectively.

“Vaccination is one of the greatest achievements of public health, but that doesn’t mean the people who need it most will always get it,” said Dr. Simon Heidel, associate professor of health policy and management at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health. who conducted the study. “This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

For example, pediatric vaccine orders and the number of pediatric vaccines administered have dropped significantly in the United States during the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and at least one study suggests that globally, those numbers have not yet risen to pandemic levels. previous level.

Haider said vaccine mandates for school-age people are particularly effective because this age group has fewer preventive visits and is therefore less likely to receive preventive services like vaccines without such a requirement. Given the potentially devastating consequences of disease outbreaks, the goal of achieving high vaccination rates across the population remains important.

“However, vaccinations have been a hot political topic in recent years, and those who are most vehemently opposed to vaccinations tend to receive significant media coverage,” Haider said. “This has led policymakers to introduce bills at the state level that would limit or eliminate vaccination requirements for students. “We wanted to understand the true extent of opposition across the country. “

Research methods

The study was funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Program, and Haeder developed an online survey completed by 16,461 respondents in the United States from January to April 2022. He used standard t tests to assess and compare overall support for vaccine requirements, and then used ordinary least squares regression to assess the correlations between support and opposition to various vaccination mandates.

The study found that student support for vaccinations was strongest among those who believed vaccines were safe and important, trusted the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, identified as racial and ethnic minorities, and held liberal political views people and those who believe vaccines are safe and important. Live in urban areas. This group also has stronger support for vaccine authorization and higher trust in doctors. With the exception of HPV and COVID-19, women were generally more supportive of mandates.

On the other hand, the strongest opposition comes from those who believe vaccines cause autism and those who are in better health and more trusting of religious leaders. Income and education level had no impact on vaccine support.

Haider said the study’s findings have broad implications, given that day care centers, colleges and universities, and some workplaces have implemented similar rules, albeit more limited ones.

“Most importantly, our study shows that K-12 vaccination mandates have broad support among the American public, even in more controversial contexts such as HPV and COVID-19,” Haeder said.

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