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Vaccine resistance has decreased among parents, but young mothers show greatest resistance

Support for school vaccine mandates has grown substantially since winter
Mother holding a young child during doctor visit

With COVID-19 vaccine approval for children under 12 expected in fall and a return to school looming, what is the prevailing attitude among U.S. parents on vaccinating children and school vaccine mandates?

A new COVID-States report finds overall, Americans are more inclined toward vaccinating their children than they were in winter and spring. However, the trend has been uneven across age and gender. Resistance remains highest among mothers of young children, which could impede vaccination progress once the vaccine is available to younger children. 

“This could create a complex scenario in schools with uneven vaccination rates within and across classes,” said political scientist James Druckman, the Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and associate director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. “The finding though also provides some insight into a particular population (e.g., mothers of young children) that needs to be explored further to understand their specific concerns.”

Druckman is one of the researchers involved in the university consortium The COVID States Project, which includes Northwestern, Northeastern, Harvard and Rutgers experts in computational social science, network science, public opinion polling, epidemiology, public health, communication and political science.

In a national poll designed to measure shifts in vaccine acceptance from the time of FDA approval in winter to the summer of 2021, surveys were delivered at intervals in winter, spring and summer to more than 20,000 adults, of whom nearly one-third reported having children under 18 in their household. Key takeaways from the report include:

  • Major gender and age gaps remain in vaccine resistance with young mothers and mothers of young children most resistant to vaccinating their kids and requiring COVID-19 vaccination for in-person school attendance.

  • Black parents have become substantially less resistant to vaccinating their kids. Among Democrats, however, Black parents remain by far the most vaccination-resistant, followed by Hispanic Democrats, then white Democrats. This is partly due to stronger mistrust of government and healthcare institutions. Asian American parents have the highest level of vaccine acceptance.

  • Support for school vaccine mandates has grown substantially from 54.4% in winter to 61.3% in summer. Support has grown among both Republicans and Democrats, although a major partisan gap remains. Overall, Americans who are more liberal, educated, higher income and urban are more likely to support school vaccine mandates.

“The over-time changes show that this is an evolving issue but one that needs acute attention as the fall approaches and schools decide how to proceed in terms of their vaccination plans and their safety requirements,” Druckman said.

Read the full report here.  Results of previous surveys can be found here.


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