Survey points to Changing Attitudes Over Vaccines Among Tx Conservatives

By Morgan Montalvo


New survey findings point to more support among Texas conservatives for immunization of school-age children, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Of 750 respondents who voted in the most recent Republican primary, 86 percent say they support immunization of schoolchildren as a July 23, 2018 Survey.

Most Republican voters want schoolchildren to have their shots before going to school, according to a recent Texas survey.

The new survey, taken in mid-July, finds Texas Republican primary voters overwhelmingly support school immunization requirements, and strongly believe school-entry vaccine requirements protect Texas children.

“It is heartening to see that huge numbers of Texas Republican primary voters choose to protect our schoolchildren from disease and endorse reducing the number of tragic, vaccine-preventable deaths as a proper role of the government,” said John Carlo, MD, chair of the Texas Public Health Coalition (TPHC), which commissioned the study.

More than eight in 10 respondents (86 percent) said they support requiring school-age children to be immunized to attend public school. Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) said they “strongly support” such requirements.

People surveyed also strongly oppose allowing parents to opt out - for nonmedical reasons - of providing their school children required vaccines (68 percent strongly or somewhat oppose nonmedical opt-outs). Since 2003, Texas has seen a more-than-2,000-percent increase in vaccine exemptions - sometimes called conscientious objections - in Texas public schools. 

Nonetheless, statewide vaccination rates for Texas kindergarteners and seventh graders remain above 96 percent, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

“Clearly, vaccine opponents do not speak for the vast majority of Texas Republican primary voters,” Dr. Carlo said.

Opinions were even stronger when people were asked whether their personal views more closely align with laws requiring vaccinations for school entry (79 percent agreed, saying vaccines provide protection against contagious diseases, and the laws should be enforced). 

Conversely, just 16 percent said they agree with parents’ choice not to vaccinate their child before enrolling him or her in school.

Survey participants also strongly believe schools should report the number of unvaccinated children enrolled; nearly 80 percent believe that number should be available to the public (61 percent strongly support it). 

Texas lawmakers failed to pass a “Parents’ Right to Know” bill filed last legislative session to require school-level opt-out numbers reporting. 

Parents can obtain vaccination opt-out rates only on a district-wide basis. Proponents argue school-level data would allow parents of children who are highly susceptible to diseases to choose safer school environments.

The government should have a role in reducing the number of vaccine-preventable deaths, according to more than two-thirds (67 percent) of voters who participated in the immunization survey. 

Nearly half of the survey participants (49 percent) also said they would be less likely to support a legislator who votes against vaccine requirements. One-third said they would be much less likely to support that lawmaker, while more than one-quarter of others were uncertain.

“These numbers tell us Republican lawmakers who stand up for healthy children should have nothing to fear from extremists who don’t reflect the views of most of their party’s voters, nor the general public for that matter,” said Dr. Carlo. “On the other hand, Republican primary voters are less likely to support an elected official who votes against vaccine requirements.”

Ragnar Research Partners polled 750 Republican 2018 primary voters across Texas for the scientific survey. Interviews were conducted July 7-10, 2018, by telephone, including landlines and cell phones. The margin of error for this study is +/-4 percent.

TPHC is a coalition of more than 30 health professional organizations and health-focused organizations dedicated to disease prevention and health promotion. The coalition works to reduce preventable disease by advancing effective public policies that promote a safe and healthy environment and healthy behaviors for all Texas residents.

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