By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Kentucky adults were divided in late winter when asked whether coronavirus vaccines should be required for employment or attending in-person school, according to a recent poll.
The poll, taken Feb. 11 to March 12, found 47% of Kentucky adults said it was a good idea to require school children to be vaccinated before in-person schooling, and 50% said it was a bad idea.
“It’s expected for parents to have lots of questions and be concerned about their child’s health,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which sponsored the poll. “We encourage you to talk with your child’s pediatrician, your doctor, pharmacist or local health department to get the facts about what the vaccine means for your teen. And, talk to your teenager about what they want to do.”
By far, more Democrats (68%) than independents (43%) or Republicans (28%) said it was a good idea to require children to get a vaccine in order to attend in-person school.
This idea was most supported by Kentuckians 65 and older (56%) and least supported by those 30 to 45 (36%). There was also a divide between households without children (54%) and those that did (32%).
The poll was taken many weeks before the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in children 12-15. This age group became eligible to get the vaccine Wednesday, with the first doses given Thursday in Kentucky. The vaccine has been authorized for people 16 and older since December.
A spokesperson for the state health cabinet, Susan Dunlap, told WFPL that “there are no current plans for the Covid-19 vaccine to become a mandatory immunization for Kentucky’s school children/youth.”
Allison Adams, the health foundation’s vice-president for policy, said the poll shows how important it is for families to hear from trusted health-care providers as they decide about Covid-19 vaccination for children.
“They want to hear on a personal level how vaccine could impact their family members from someone who knows them, their situation and their community,” Adams said at an online news conference. “That’s why it’s so important right now for local healthcare providers to be getting factual information out to their patients.”
And even if the vaccine is not mandatory, Adams said there is value in offering the vaccine at schools because studies show the more readily available a vaccine is, the better the uptake will be.
A nationwide poll, taken in April, found three in 10 parents of children ages 12-15, or 30%, said they would get their child vaccinated for Covid-19 as soon as the vaccine was authorized. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 23% said they would definitely not get them vaccinated.
Polling on business
Gov. Andy Beshear announced Friday that he will allow all Kentucky businesses to open to 100% capacity June 11. He said waiting a month allows children 12-15 time to get fully vaccinated, which means they have received their second shot and two weeks have passed after receiving it.
The Kentucky poll also asked whether the respondents thought it was a good or bad idea for businesses to require employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine before being allowed to work in person. To this question, 52% said it was a good idea and 44% said it was a bad one.
Again, Democrats were most likely to support required Covid-19 vaccines to return to in-person work, at 74%, followed by independents at 56%, and Republicans at 35%.
This idea was also most supported by those 65 and older (65%) and least supported by those 30-45 (40%).
“Research shows that vaccines help keep people from spreading Covid-19 to others and they are a critical tool as we work against the clock before more variants come along. . . . That’s why we all need to get vaccinated,” said Adams.
The foundation’s poll was conducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. The poll’s error margin is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. It surveyed a random sample of 807 Kentucky adults in landline and cellphone interviews.