In 2019, 79 per cent of Republicans favoured requiring children to be vaccinated to attend public schools. Now, that number has fallen to just 59 per cent – all while the number of Democrats who support vaccine requirements for public schools has remained unchanged at around 85 per cent.
The falling level of support for vaccine requirements among Republicans speaks to the ways in which vaccinations became politicised during the Covid-19 pandemic, when visible conservative and far-right figures spread conspiracy theories about Covid-19 vaccines and downplayed the seriousness of the virus the shots protect against.
The declining Republican support for vaccinations for public school attendance means that the overall number of Americans who support such requirements has fallen to 70 per cent from 82 per cent in 2019.
One of the most significant drivers of the decline in support for vaccine requirements for children is a change in viewpoint from white evangelical Protestants. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents from that group said they were in support of the requirements, down from 77 per cent in 2019.
White evangelical Protestants were overwhelmingly supportive of Donald Trump in the last two presidential elections, with surveys estimating that around 80 per cent of those voters supported Mr Trump in the 2020 race.
The Pew survey also found broad concerns with the Covid-19 vaccine. While 62 per cent of Americans say the benefits from the vaccines outweigh the potential risks, just 45 per cent of Americans say that the vaccine has high preventative health benefits — even though Covid vaccines are believed to have saved 20 million lives worldwide in the first year since it was introduced in 2020. 58 percent of people believe the risk of side effects from the vaccines is medium or high.
Sixty-nine per cent of Americans have received the two-dose initial Covid vaccines, but just 17 per cent of Americans have receved a bivalent booster shot. The US has a lower full vaccination rate than a number of its industralised peer nations. Democrats and people with college degrees are more likely to be vaccinated in the US.
On the whole, Americans are still broadly supportive of a number of childhood vaccines — with a particularly strong belief in the benefits of the standard vaccinations against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
Americans’ views on vaccines have been under scrutiny since the beginning of the pandemic, with data showing that the kindergarten vaccination rate dropped slightly this year.