Poll: Majority of parents against school vaccine mandates, support mask requirements

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Most parents oppose COVID-19 vaccination mandates at schools, but a majority back requirements for unvaccinated students and staff to wear masks at schools, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll.

The KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor released Wednesday determined that 58 percent of parents of 12- to 17-year-old children who are eligible for the COVID-19 shot are against schools requiring these vaccinations for in-person learning. 

Fifty-four percent of parents of school-age children still disapproved of a vaccine mandate even if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offered full approval for the vaccines. So far, the agency has granted emergency use authorizations for the three vaccines to be administered only during the public health emergency.

But 63 percent of parents of all school-age children said schools should mandate masks for unvaccinated students and staff in the building. 

The poll comes amid the ongoing debate on the safest way to return to in-person learning after the pandemic required children across the country to attend classes remotely. 

School districts across the country are challenging state rules to either require masks or ban mask mandates in schools, sparking confusion and disputes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all people over 2 years old wear masks in schools.  

“Despite controversy around the country about masks in schools, most parents want their school to require masks of unvaccinated students and staff,” KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said in a statement. “At the same time, most parents don’t want their schools to require their kids get a COVID-19 vaccine despite their effectiveness in combatting COVID-19.”

The poll results also highlighted partisan divides among parents, with 66 percent of Democratic parents of 12- to 17-year-old children backing vaccine mandates. A large majority — 87 percent — of Republican parents object to such requirements. 

Similarly, 88 percent of Democratic and 66 percent of independent parents of school-age children support masks in schools, compared to 69 percent of Republican parents who disagree.

The poll found nearly half – 47 percent – of parents of 12- to 17-year-olds said their child had gotten vaccinated or plan to as soon as possible. Almost a quarter of parents said they want to “wait and see” how vaccinations work, 9 percent said their child will get vaccinated “only if their school requires it” and 20 percent said their child will “definitely not” get the jab.

Parents of unvaccinated eligible children had concerns about vaccinations, including 88 percent who said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned that there’s not enough information about the vaccine’s long-term effects on children. 

Almost three-quarters of these parents expressed anxiety over allegations that the vaccine could impact their child’s fertility, but the CDC said there’s “no evidence” to prove the shot impacts one’s fertility. 

The KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor surveyed 1,259 parents with children in their household between July 15 and Aug. 2. The margin of error for parents of all school-age children was 4 percentage points and 5 percentage points for parents of children age 12 to 17.

Currently, children are only eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which the FDA authorized for those 12 years old and older. The other two vaccines authorized in the U.S., Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are only allowed to be given to adults.

Tags children Coronavirus COVID-19 COVID-19 vaccine Education Kaiser Family Foundation KFF vaccine monitor mask mandate Masks Pandemic schools Vaccine vaccine mandate

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