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Eight Out Of 10 Adults Support Mandatory Childhood Vaccinations, Pew Study Finds

Most adults support routine childhood vaccinations for children. That’s the conclusion of a new, nationwide Pew Research Center survey. Still, in Texas, there’s a growing group of parents who oppose mandatory childhood vaccinations. 

Cary Funk, author of the Pew report, explains differences in attitudes among Americans related to age, race and education.

Interview Highlights:

What’s the overall level of support for mandatory measles, mumps and rubella [MMR] vaccinations for kids going to public schools?

 

“Fully 82 percent of Americans across the nation say that healthy children should be required to be vaccinated to attend public school. Seventeen percent think instead that parents should be able to decide not to have their children vaccinated even if that creates health risks for others.”

In Texas, parents have the option to opt out of vaccinations, with what’s known as a conscientious or religious objection, is that something that’s common across the country?

“There are a number of groups who have comparatively more concern about the [MMR] vaccine, and one [such group is] parents with young children who are directly facing the decision to vaccinate their children according to the recommended immunization schedule. They are slightly more likely to say parents should be able to decide. But still 77 percent of this group supports the idea of a school based requirement.”

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Credit Pew Research Center
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Cary Funk is associate director of research on science and society at Pew Research Center.

Why might parents with young children have more questions or concerns about an MMR vaccine?

“That's a good question and hard to answer directly from the survey, but certainly public health officials are especially focused on this group because these are the parents who directly face the question of immunizing their child on the recommended schedule. And what's interesting here as well is you're seeing the views of parents with young children — that is anywhere from birth through age 4 — they’re more likely to have concerns about the risks of side effects from MMR and see fewer benefits. It’s the really older adults [ages 65 and older] who are most strongly in support for the school based requirement for the MMR vaccine."

What other demographic divisions did the survey reveal among Americans in terms of concern around the MMR vaccine?

“One group are blacks compared with whites in particular. They tend to rate the benefits as lower and risks as higher. Another group are people who tend to know less about science in general. We asked people several items about their general information about science topics and those who know a lot about science were much more likely to say that the benefits of the MMR vaccine is high and to see the risk as low compared with those who don’t know as much about science generally.”

Is there a partisan divide on support for mandatory childhood vaccinations?

"One of the interesting things here, certainly we saw President Trump when he was still President-elect signaling the possibility of raising questions about the safety of childhood vaccines but we don't see at least at this point any differences between democrats and Republicans on this issue. And that's really important to keep in mind, is we’re living in a time of a lot of political divide on a lot of other issues, but certainly not all issues.”

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.