Opposition to school vaccine mandates has grown significantly, the study found

For generations in most American families, getting kids vaccinated was just something to check off the back-to-school to-do list. But after the fierce battles over Covid vaccines of the past two years, simmering resistance to blanket school vaccine mandates has grown significantly. now, 35 percent of parents oppose requirements that children receive routine vaccinations to go to school, according to a new survey released Friday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

All states and the District of Columbia require that children be vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, and other deadly and highly contagious childhood diseases. (Most allow a few limited exemptions.)

Throughout the pandemic, the Kaiser Foundation, a nonpartisan health research organization, has been issuing monthly reports on changing attitudes toward Covid vaccines. Polls have shown a growing political divide on the issue, and the latest study indicates the divide now extends to routine childhood vaccinations.

Forty-four percent of adults who identify as Republican or lean that way said in the latest poll that parents should have the right to opt out of school vaccination mandates, up 20 percent cent in a pre-pandemic survey conducted in 2019 by the Pew Research Center. . . In contrast, 88 percent of adults who identify as Democrats approved or approved of childhood vaccine requirements, a slight increase from 86 percent in 2019.

The survey found that 28 percent of adults overall believed that parents should have the authority to make decisions about school vaccines for their children, a position that in the 2019 Pew survey only had 16 percent of adults.

The shift in positions appears to be less about rejecting the shots than about growing support for the so-called parents’ rights movement. In fact, 80 percent of parents said the benefits of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines outweighed the risks, just down from 83 percent in 2019.

“The issue that has been circulated is the concept of taking away parental rights,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, chairman of the infectious diseases committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “And when you frame it in a simple way, it’s very attractive to a certain segment of the population. But what about the right for your kids to be safe at school from vaccine-preventable diseases?

Even so, Dr. O’Leary said he wasn’t overly concerned that school vaccine mandates would be lifted, but that the growing embrace of parental rights could further slow compliance with state-required immunization schedules, a schedule that time that has been endorsed by pediatricians.

“We know that many children missed their vaccines during the pandemic, not because they refused, but because, for many reasons, people didn’t go to the doctor,” he said. “And we have an overall decline in vaccine coverage. So this is not the time to consider repealing these laws.”

The latest survey was based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,259 adults and was conducted beginning in November. 29 in December. 8.

It showed disappointing rates of uptake of the latest Covid booster, a “bivalent” shot that targets both the original coronavirus and the Omicron variant and has been available since September. Only four in 10 adults said they had received the booster or wanted to. Among the over-65s, the most at-risk age group, about one in four said they had been too busy to get it or hadn’t found the time to do it.

Even among adults who had received previous Covid shots, the survey found that more than four in 10 said they felt they did not need this latest injection.

Only a third of respondents said they personally feared getting very sick from Covid, although half expressed general concern about rising Covid rates this winter. About two-thirds of black and Latino adults were concerned about Covid rates, compared with about four in 10 white adults.

The survey also found that around half of parents were worried their children might get sick this winter from Covid-19, the flu or RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), a sign that Covid-19 was increasingly normalizing in the perception of the public and joining the landscape of seasonal diseases.

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