Parent Poll: Vaccine ‘Absolutely Necessary’ for Sending Kids Back to Classrooms; 6 in 10 Will Immunize Their Children

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Parents say making a COVID-19 vaccine available to the public is “absolutely necessary” for them to feel safe returning their children to classrooms, and a majority will have their kids vaccinated, according to a new poll by the National Parents Union. But only half of those will inoculate their kids right away, and one-fourth of families won't do so at all.

The poll comes as states try to figure out how to comply with a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that teachers, school staff and day care providers be among the next group of essential workers prioritized for vaccination. The process has been complicated by delays in vaccine distribution.

Overall, 60 percent of parents polled say they will have their kids vaccinated, though only 31 percent will do so immediately. One-fourth say they will not immunize their children.

Three-fourth of parents who are Democrats say they will have their children vaccinated, versus 56 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of political independents, the December survey found. Half say making a COVID-19 vaccine available to the public is “absolutely necessary” for them to feel safe returning their children to classrooms.

As ambivalent as they are about the vaccines, 68 percent of parents surveyed expressed concern that their children are falling behind — a rate that has remained relatively consistent since the start of the current academic year.

A year-old federation of parents and advocacy organizations, the National Parents Union has surveyed families about their experiences and opinions since April and canvassed a representative sample monthly since September. The December poll was administered to 1,008 parents.

The first NPU poll to probe families’ attitudes about vaccines, the December survey found acceptance of vaccination rises with parental education and income, and is highest in Western states. Asians were the ethic group most likely to say they will have their children vaccinated, at 70 percent, compared with 64 percent of Latinos, 58 percent of whites and 55 percent of Blacks.

It’s not clear whether immunizing teachers will quell the debate over how to safely reopen schools. Polls put the number of American adults who say they are likely to seek the vaccine as low as 60 percent, calling into question whether enough teachers will sign up. Regardless, transmission seems increasingly unlikely in schools, provided community case rates are low.

In a recent interview with Maybach Media’s Zoe Kirsch, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said she favors prioritizing vaccination according to school reopening plans, with early immunizations going to staff whose schools are welcoming students back in person.

The December survey was consistent with the general findings of the organization’s past polls: Even as concerns mount that their children are falling behind, more than two-thirds of parents worry about someone in their family getting COVID-19.

A widely available vaccine tops the list of safety measures that would bridge the gap between families’ fears of learning loss and their anxiety about the coronavirus. Asked what factors were “absolutely necessary” for them to be willing to send their children back into classrooms, 46 percent of parents said requiring staff and students potentially exposed to the virus to stay home for 14 days, 44 percent want limited class sizes to facilitate social distancing and 41 percent said case counts in their communities need to be low.

Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation and The City Fund provide financial support to the National Parents Union and Maybach Media

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