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Support for strict vaccination requirements for school children has plummeted in Iowa, according to a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll.
Only 34% of Iowa adults now say all children should be required to receive standard vaccines unless they have a signed statement from a doctor stating they have a medical reason not to be vaccinated. , according to the survey. That’s down from 59% who supported such a requirement in 2015, when the Iowa poll asked a similar question about childhood vaccinations.
The shifting opinions come amid controversy over COVID-19 vaccines, which are not included in the list of vaccines Iowa children are supposed to receive before going to school. The list of state-mandated vaccines includes those for measles, polio, mumps and whooping cough, which have been needed for decades.
The new poll specifically asked what Iowans think of state law requiring children to be vaccinated against diseases other than COVID-19.
The new poll finds that 28% say the state shouldn’t have a childhood immunization law. Another 21% of Iowa adults support allowing limited exemptions to childhood vaccination mandates for medical or religious reasons, while 14% support allowing broad exemptions, for personal reasons as well as for medical or religious reasons. Three percent are unsure.
The 28% of adults who think Iowa shouldn’t have a childhood vaccination law are up 12 percentage points from seven years ago, when 16% thought so.
The new Iowa poll, conducted by Selzer & Co., is based on a sample of 813 Iowa adults. It was conducted from February 28 to March 2 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
Iowa’s current childhood vaccination law allows exemptions for medical or religious reasons.
Public health experts say that although some children have legitimate medical reasons not to receive specific vaccines, no major religion teaches that vaccinations are bad.
However, Iowa parents seeking a religious exemption do not have to cite a specific principle. All they need to do is sign a state form stating “that vaccination is contrary to genuine and sincere religious belief and that the belief is in fact religious, and not based merely on philosophical, scientific, moral opposition , personal or medical to vaccinations”. ”
The number of Iowa families seeking such religious exemptions has been growing for decades. In the 2020-21 school year, the most recent for which records are available, 10,593 Iowa children received religious exemptions to vaccinations and another 1,570 received medical exemptions, according to the Department of Iowa Public Health. The total represented just over 2% of all students. In the 2000-2001 school year, only 1,559 Iowa students received religious immunization exemptions and 991 received medical exemptions.
Rising skepticism about childhood vaccinations has been attributed to fears they could trigger conditions such as autism. Public health officials say these concerns have been thoroughly researched and refuted. And they say pockets of vaccine resistance have led to outbreaks of measles and other preventable diseases.
Politics appears to play a role in vaccine opinions, Iowa Poll finds
The new poll from Iowa suggests that politics influences how people think about childhood vaccination mandates.
Only 17% of Iowa Republicans support all children being vaccinated against diseases other than COVID-19 unless they have a signed statement from a doctor saying they have a reason doctor not to receive the vaccines. But 56% of Iowa Democrats favor such a strict requirement, as do 34% of political independents.
On the other hand, 46% of Republicans in Iowa say the state should not have a childhood vaccination law, compared to just 5% of Democrats and 27% of political independents.
The poll also reveals gender differences in how people think about mandatory vaccinations for children. Only 20% of Iowa women think no law should require such injections, compared to 35% of men.
Poll participant Ashley Wren, 29, of Ames, thinks all children should be vaccinated unless they have a signed note from a doctor documenting they have a medical reason not to be . She is skeptical of people who claim to have religious beliefs against vaccinations. Additionally, she says, “there is supposed to be a separation of church and state.”
Wren, a political freelancer who works as a home health aide, said the vaccination skepticism that has spread during the COVID pandemic could lead to more families refusing routine childhood vaccines. Such refusals could allow resurgences of dormant diseases, she said.
“Ignorance and misinformation is terrifying,” Wren said.
Poll participant Brad Purscell, of Creston, is among those who think the government has no right to require anyone to be vaccinated against anything.
“None of these vaccinations should be required. If you’re going to get sick, you’re going to get sick,” said Purscell, a Republican who works as a truck driver.
Purscell said he believes diseases such as polio have declined mainly because people’s bodies have developed their own immunity.
Historians say polio was quickly brought under control after a vaccine was introduced in 1955, and the deadly disease has been kept at bay with widespread childhood vaccinations ever since.
Purscell doubts the beatings are the reason for the polio defeat.
” It’s nature. It is evolution. It is God,” he said.
Poll participant Wade Mulford, of Solon, believes there should be a requirement for childhood vaccinations, but should include broad exemptions, including for parents’ personal beliefs.
“I think parents should have the upper hand in government,” said Mulford, 46, who is politically independent and works as a supervisor at a metal fabrication plant. “Parents should have ultimate control over what happens in their children’s bodies.”
Mulford has two teenage daughters, who received all routine vaccinations when they were younger. He thinks requiring vaccinations for school attendance sets a useful standard, as long as parents can apply for exemptions. Even if the requirement were relaxed, he said, most families would still follow pediatricians’ recommendations on what injections children should receive.
Poll participant Darla Miller of Burlington thinks the current law is working well, with a general vaccination requirement but limited exemptions.
Miller, 62, is a Democrat on a disability pension. She said every family should have their children vaccinated unless they have a good reason not to.
“They have to think of everyone,” she said. “They can’t just think about themselves.”
Even children who don’t get seriously ill from an illness can pass it on to someone more susceptible, she said. If the number of children skipping standard vaccinations increases dramatically, she says, “it would be a disaster.”
The 2015 Iowa poll question on vaccination was asked following a national measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in California.
Tony Leys covers health care for the register. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-284-8449.
About the survey
The Iowa poll, conducted Feb. 28 through March 2, 2022, for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 813 Iowans age 18 or older. Quantel Research interviewers contacted households with randomly selected landline and cell phone numbers provided by Dynata. The interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted for age, gender, and congressional district to reflect the general population based on recent estimates from the American Community Survey.
Questions based on the sample of 813 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Questions based on the subsample of 612 likely voters in the 2022 general election have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and methodology, 19 times out of 20, the results would not deviate from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.4 percentage points or 4.0 percentage points, respectively. Results based on smaller samples of respondents – for example by gender or age – have a larger margin of error.
Republication of the Iowa Poll copyright without crediting the Registry and Mediacom is prohibited.