Newswise — A majority of Chicago parents feel that schools and employers should be able to require students and employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19, respectively, according to results of the latest survey by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

The Voices of Child Health in Chicago report from Lurie Children’s gauged parents’ feelings on this decision that schools now face, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and opportunities arise to vaccinate more and more children. COVID-19 vaccine is now available to people 12 and older, and ongoing clinical trials are expected to open availability of the vaccine for younger children in the coming months.

Last week, California became the first state to announce that it plans to require schoolchildren get vaccinated against COVID-19 when the vaccine gets full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. And in September, the Los Angeles Unified School District became the first major district in the country to mandate vaccination against COVID-19 for students 12 years and older for in-person learning. Their decision is stirring the same debate in school districts elsewhere, the majority of which require vaccinations against many other diseases such as polio, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, and chickenpox.  Some employers, especially in healthcare and other industries that involve in-person service, are also requiring COVID-19 vaccination. However, whether to require COVID-19 vaccinations is a decision that most schools, state and local governments, and employers still need to make.

The major results of the survey are:

  • 55 percent of survey respondents agreed that schools should be able to mandate COVID-19 vaccines; 24 percent disagreed, while 21 percent said they neither agreed nor disagreed.
  • 56 percent of survey respondents agreed that employers should be able to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their employees; 22 percent disagreed, and 22 percent said they neither agreed nor disagreed.

“A key to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic is to achieve high levels of vaccination across all communities. An effective method to encourage vaccination is through vaccine mandates, and overall, the majority of Chicago parents approved of such mandates in schools and in workplaces,”  says Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP, Chair of the Department of Medicine at Lurie Children’s, Executive Vice-President and Chief Community Health Transformation Officer at the Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities at Lurie Children’s and Chair of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

For schools and workplaces, fathers showed significantly more support for mandates than mothers. This is similar to past Voices of Child Health in Chicago surveys that found mothers were more hesitant to vaccinate their children against COVID-19. Asian and White parents were more likely than Black and Latinx parents to support mandates. In addition, parents with household incomes below the federal poverty line ($26,500 for a family of four), were less likely to support vaccine mandates, while parents with a college degree were more likely to support mandates in schools and workplaces.

As of September 30, 57 percent of Chicago residents were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including half of youth between ages 12-17.

“I urge parents who have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine to reach out to their children’s pediatrician. The COVID-19 vaccine is a safe and effective way to help prevent the spread COVID-19 infections and to help our children get back to their regular routines and lives,” says Larry K. Kociolek, MD, MSCI, Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Lurie Children’s and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine.

Survey findings are based on data from the Voices of Child Health in Chicago Parent Panel Survey. The survey is conducted exclusively by NORC at the University of Chicago for Lurie Children’s and is administered to Chicago parents three times each year via internet and telephone surveys. The data in this report are from 1,620 parents, step-parents or guardians (referred to as “parents” in this report) of at least one child under 18 years old living in the household. Responses were collected between May-July 2021, came from all 77 community areas in Chicago, and are weighted to be representative of households with children across the city.

Population-focused child health research at Lurie Children’s is conducted through the Mary Ann & J. Milburn Smith Child Health Outcomes, Research, and Evaluation Center at the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of new knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals in U.S. News & World Report and is the pediatric training affiliate for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 221,000 children from 47 states and 30 countries.  

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Voices of Child Health in Chicago, Oct-2021