87.5% of Americans who have no children don’t “have any concerns regarding vaccinations for children,” according to a Truven Health Analytics-NPR Health poll of 3,004 Americans interviewed earlier in March. The proportion of childless Americans who are unconcerned about vaccinating children increases as they pass childbearing age, to almost 90% for those 35 and older.
In contrast, among Americans with children a large minority does worry about vaccinating children. More than one-third (34.6%) of parents under 35 express concerns, as does more than one-quarter (25.3%) of those aged 35-64.
The NPR survey indicates, as might be expected, that those who do not need to decide whether to vaccinate a child tend not to worry about potential problems with vaccinations.
The survey also sheds light on the possible motivations of adults — themselves are at risk from the once-childhood diseases — in wanting mandatory vaccination of children. Adults who don’t have children to protect are likelier — in some demographics, twice as likely — to want to deny parents the ability to opt out of vaccinations. As examples, among those with college degrees, only 18% of childless Americans believe parents should be able to exempt children from being vaccinated, compared to 36% of Americans with children. In those earning over $100,000 a year, the gap is also two-fold, 21% to 42%. In only one demographic is there almost no gap between Americans with and without children — adults in the prime childbearing years, 34 and under, where 36% of Americans who at the time of the survey did not have a child favored exemptions compared to 39% who were already parents.
One of the most striking findings in the NPR survey involves the reasons adults have for wanting children to get vaccinated. Many Americans without children who have concerns see the public health benefit of vaccination as their main concern — 19% want children to be vaccinated to protect the general population, including themselves, from infection, a number that soars to 33% for those age 65 and older. In contrast, just 3.9% of parents who have concerns about vaccinations consider public health to be their main concern, a trivial number that drops to 0.0% for those over 65%.
The margin of error in the Truven Health Analytics-NPR Health poll of 3,004 Americans is +/- 1.8%. For the full poll results, click here.