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Students

Public Divided on Student COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements

Story Highlights

  • Between 48% and 54% support student vaccination requirements
  • Fewer are in favor of vaccination requirements than were a year ago
  • Parents of children under 18 are less supportive than non-parents

WASHINGTON, DC — As US students begin the 2022-2023 school year, Americans are mostly divided on whether students at all levels of education should be required to have COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of in-person attendance. Slightly less than half of Americans, 48%, believe elementary students should be vaccinated in order to attend classes, while slim majorities favor vaccinations for middle school, high school and college students.

Current support for student vaccination requirements, based on a July 26-Aug. 2 Gallup COVID-19 survey, is lower than it was heading into the 2021-2022 school year.

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At this time last year, vaccines had yet to be approved for children younger than 12 but had been approved for older children. The Supreme Court denied an emergency request to block the implementation of a college COVID-19 vaccination mandate that had been upheld by lower courts. However, the Supreme Court later struck down provisions of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccination mandates for US workers.

Declines in support for student vaccination mandates are generally similar across demographic groups, although older Americans (those aged 65 and older) show slightly larger decreases than other subgroups.

The survey also finds 55% of Americans in favor of vaccination requirements for teachers and staff in K-12 schools, down from 63% last September.

Parents Are Less Supportive of Vaccination Mandates

Parents of school-aged children are significantly less likely than non-parents to favor vaccination mandates at all education levels. Only about four in 10 parents favor them for any student cohort, while between 51% and 57% of non-parents support them.

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Gallup also found lower support for student vaccination mandates among parents than non-parents in the July 2021 update. However, parents and non-parents alike are less supportive of student vaccination mandates now than they were last year.

As is the case for many COVID-19 opinions or behaviors, the largest subgroup differences are by political party. More than eight in 10 Democrats favor vaccination mandates for all student groups, while fewer than two in 10 Republicans agree.

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In all party groups, parents of school-aged children are less likely than non-parents to favor vaccination requirements, usually by about 10 percentage points. For example, 72% of Democratic parents versus 83% of Democratic nonparents favor vaccination mandates for elementary school students. Among independents, the figures are 30% for parents and 44% for non-parents. Among Republicans, 7% of parents versus 15% of non-parents are in favor of requiring elementary students to get vaccinated.

Bottom Line

Many colleges in the US require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend classes. At the same time, few K-12 school districts have put in place COVID-19 vaccination requirements for their students. The Biden administration and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have called on schools to encourage vaccination but are not recommending mandates.

To some degree, this may reflect the reality of lower vaccination rates among children than adults, as well as data that indicate children are less susceptible to severe COVID-19 outcomes than adults are. It may also be related to lessening public concern about the coronavirus since vaccines became widely available in early 2021.

Slim majorities of Americans are in favor of vaccination mandates for middle school and older students. However, parents — the group ultimately responsible for compliance with such requirements — are more likely to oppose than support requiring vaccines for all student cohorts.

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