About one in four U.S. parents report that a child of theirs had to quarantine at home because of a possible exposure to Covid-19 since the beginning of the school year, according to the latest findings of a monthly survey about vaccine attitudes by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
That is even as two-thirds of parents say they feel that their school is taking appropriate measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The report suggests that many parents are conflicted about which courses of action will keep their children both healthy and educated.
Even among parents who have received at least one vaccine dose, 18 percent do not think schools should require all staff and students to wear masks, a view held by 63 percent of unvaccinated parents. Overall, 58 percent of parents say that schools should have comprehensive mask requirements, 35 percent say there should be no mask mandates at all, and 4 percent believe that only unvaccinated students and staff should be compelled to wear masks, according to the report.
Over the summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all students, teachers and staff members in elementary and secondary schools wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status, to allow as many students as possible to return to in-person instruction.
Kaiser conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,519 people from Sept. 13 to Sept. 22 — a time of surging Covid deaths — and was mostly completed before Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their coronavirus vaccine was safe and effective for children aged 5 to 11. No vaccine is currently authorized in the United States for children under 12. Of all the people who were polled, 414 identified themselves as parents of children 17 or younger, and were included in the analysis of parents’ responses.
The Pfizer vaccine, already in use for older children and adults, was authorized in mid-May for children aged 12 to 15, and the report suggests that over time, parents of children in that age group and older are slowly becoming more comfortable with it. By the time of the September interviews, 48 percent said that their children between the ages 12 to 17 had gotten at least one dose, up from 41 percent in July. According to federal data, 57 percent of that age group has received at least one dose.
And perhaps prompted by a constellation of factors, including rising numbers of children hospitalized because of the Delta variant as well as seeing older vaccinated children remain healthy, parents of children aged 5 to 11 increasingly report favoring the vaccine as well.
The State of Vaccine Mandates in the U.S.
- Vaccine rules. On Aug. 23, the F.D.A. granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, paving the way for mandates in both the public and private sectors. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. California became the first state to issue a vaccine mandate for all educators in public and private schools. New York City has also introduced a vaccine mandate for teachers and staff, but it has yet to take effect because of legal challenges. On Sept. 27, a federal appeals panel reversed a decision that temporarily paused that mandate. it. Los Angeles has mandated vaccines for students 12 and older who are attending class in person.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get vaccinated. Mandates for health care workers in California and New York State appear to have compelled thousands of holdouts to receive shots.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations. City education staff and hospital workers must also get a vaccine.
- At the federal level. On Sept. 9, President Biden announced a vaccine mandate for the vast majority of federal workers. This mandate will apply to employees of the executive branch, including the White House and all federal agencies and members of the armed services.
- In the private sector. Mr. Biden has mandated that all companies with more than 100 workers require vaccination or weekly testing, helping propel new corporate vaccination policies. Some companies, like United Airlines and Tyson Foods, had mandates in place before Mr. Biden’s announcement.
Thirty-four percent of those parents say now that they will have their children vaccinated as soon as they can, up from 26 percent in July. Commensurately, parental hesitation is beginning to melt: In September, with school open, 32 percent of parents of those younger children said they preferred to “wait and see” before making a decision about vaccinating them, down from 40 percent in July.
Of note, the share of parents of children aged 5 to 17 who insist that they will “definitely not” vaccinate their children has scarcely budged in months, suggesting that they will be the most difficult to persuade. In April, 22 percent of parents of the older cohort, ages 12 to 17, said they would definitely not have their children get shots; in September, 21 percent reported holding the same view. Parents of younger children are similarly adamant: in July, 25 percent said “definitely not” position, and in September, 24 percent did.