Americans are split on COVID-19 vaccine mandates for schoolchildren and workers at private companies, according to a new study released amid flagging vaccine uptake in the U.S. and growing partisan divides.
Half of Americans support requiring that public-school students ages 12 and older be vaccinated before attending in-person school, while just under half oppose the idea, found a new Politico-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll. Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to oppose such a mandate.
Around 52% of employed adults are against employers mandating worker vaccinations against COVID-19. Meanwhile, 53% of the general public and 65% of non-employed adults are in favor of such requirements, with similar partisan divides between Republicans and Democrats.
Some proposals bridged partisan disagreement, the survey found: For example, vaccine mandates for public-school teachers drew majority support from both Democrats (75%) and Republicans (56%). Majorities of both partisan groups also signaled support for a healthcare-worker vaccine mandate, as well as for requirements to show proof of vaccination on board flights and cruise ships.
The survey included responses from more than 1,000 U.S. adults in late June, with an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. It was released as Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, voiced support for more local-level vaccine mandates.
“I have been of this opinion, and I remain of that opinion, that I do believe at the local level … there should be more mandates. There really should be,” Fauci, asked about whether businesses or schools should require vaccinations, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday. “We’re talking about life-and-death situations. We have lost 600,000 Americans already, and we’re still losing more people.”
The longtime National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director has, however, maintained that the federal government would not mandate COVID-19 vaccination.
Fauci in the same interview said it was “horrifying” to see a Conservative Political Action Conference crowd recently cheer at the U.S. government’s failure to meet its vaccination goals. He blamed “ideological rigidity” for hindering vaccination efforts.
‘I think, when you do see the official approval … you are going to see a lot more mandates.’
— Anthony Fauci
The more-transmissible delta variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S. and many other countries, and U.S. health officials say nearly all new coronavirus cases are among unvaccinated individuals.
About 48% of the total U.S. population had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Sunday, including nearly 59% of adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 68% of adults had had at least one dose.
Vaccination rates remain low in much of the developing world. But the United States’ pace and demand for doses have slowed, and vaccination rates in many areas — largely Southern states including Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana — lag farther behind.
Several companies and states have launched incentive programs to increase vaccine uptake, and Biden has floated the idea of neighborhood-level “door-to-door” outreach to help boost vaccination numbers, a suggestion that has drawn pushback from conservatives.
As for workplace vaccine mandates, employers thus far have largely opted for carrots over sticks. But U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance, as well as a court decision in June upholding a Texas hospital system’s employee vaccine mandate, have set the stage for employers to pursue such policies.
Full Food and Drug Administration approval of the Pfizer
and Johnson & Johnson
vaccines, which are currently being used under a less-rigorous regulatory clearance called emergency-use authorization, could also open the door to more mandates, experts told MarketWatch last month.
“I think the hesitancy at the local level of doing mandates is because the vaccines have not been officially fully approved,” Fauci told Tapper. “But people need to understand that the amount of data right now that shows a high degree of effectiveness and a high degree of safety is more than we have ever seen with emergency use authorization.”
The vaccines “are as good as officially approved with all the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed,” he added.
“It hasn’t been done yet because the FDA has to do certain things, but it’s as good as done,” Fauci said. “I think, when you do see the official approval … you are going to see a lot more mandates.”