skip to main content
Public Backs Requiring COVID-19 Vaccine to Attend School

Public Backs Requiring COVID-19 Vaccine to Attend School

Story Highlights

  • 51% in favor for middle school students, 61% for college students
  • Partisanship, vaccination status key factors in opinions
  • Slim majorities of parents plan to have children vaccinated

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Majorities of Americans are in favor of requiring students who are old enough to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to be vaccinated in order to attend classes in the fall. Support ranges from 51% for middle school students to 56% for high school students and 61% for college students.

Majorities of Americans Favor Requiring Students to Be Vaccinated
Would you favor or oppose each of the following being required to receive a coronavirus/COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend classes in the fall?
Favor Oppose
% %
College students 61 39
High school students 56 44
Middle school students 51 49
Gallup Panel, May 18-23, 2021

The results are based on May 18-23 web interviews with more than 3,500 U.S. adults who are members of Gallup's probability-based panel.

The survey was conducted after the Food and Drug Administration on May 10 approved the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents as young as age 12. Moderna is currently seeking FDA approval for use of its vaccine on this age group. The two drugmakers are currently testing the effectiveness of their vaccines on children younger than age 12, but approval is not expected before the fall.

As such, middle school students and those at higher levels of education are able to be vaccinated before school resumes in the fall, but elementary school students probably would not be.

Many colleges have already said they plan to require certain students, such as those living in residence halls -- if not the entire student body -- to be vaccinated. K-12 school districts generally have not yet set policies for vaccination of high school or middle school students.

The pattern of slightly greater support for requiring older students than younger students to be vaccinated is seen among all major demographic subgroups.

Predictably, adults who have themselves been vaccinated widely favor requiring students to be vaccinated. Meanwhile, those who do not plan to get vaccinated are overwhelmingly opposed, with little variation in their opinions across the student education levels.

Political party subgroups also vary significantly in their support for required vaccination. More than three-quarters of Democrats favor required vaccinations for students at all education levels, while no more than 31% of Republicans are in favor of vaccine requirements for students at any level. Independents are generally divided in their views.

Additionally, adults with a college degree are much more supportive of requiring students to get vaccinated than those who did not graduate from college.

Support for Required Student Vaccinations, by Subgroup
Would you favor or oppose each of the following being required to receive a coronavirus/COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend classes in the fall?
Middle school students High school students College students
% % %
U.S. adults 51 56 61
Democrats 77 84 88
Independents 42 47 51
Republicans 22 26 31
College graduates 62 69 75
College nongraduates 46 51 54
Personally been vaccinated 68 74 79
Plan to get vaccinated 52 60 66
Do not plan to get vaccinated 7 8 9
Gallup Panel, May 18-23, 2021

Support for student vaccination is similar in each region of the country, with no more than seven percentage points separating the region with the highest and lowest support for vaccine requirements at any school level.

Majorities of Parents Plan to Have Own Children Vaccinated

The poll asked parents about their plans for having their own children vaccinated against COVID-19. Slim majorities of parents in three age ranges have either already had their children vaccinated already or plan to do so. Specifically,

  • Fifty-nine percent of parents of a child aged 16 to 18 say they plan to have their child vaccinated, including 40% who say their child has already received the vaccine.

  • Slightly fewer parents of children between the ages of 12 and 15 -- 53% -- plan to have their child vaccinated, including 22% of parents of children in this age range who said their child had already received a vaccine.

  • Although children younger than 12 are currently not eligible to be vaccinated, 53% of parents of such children say they would plan to have their children receive a vaccine if one were approved for this age group.

The samples of parents are not large enough to provide reliable estimates for subgroups of those parents. However, the data suggest parents' plans for vaccinating their children are highly correlated with whether the parents themselves have been vaccinated.

Bottom Line

Americans are more likely to favor than to oppose student vaccination requirements, though they are more supportive of these for college students than for high school and middle school students.

This adds to an already mixed picture of Americans' support for so-called "vaccine passports" for people to engage in public activities. Previous Gallup research has found majorities of Americans in favor of requiring proof of vaccination for air travel and attending events with large crowds, but majorities opposed to such a requirement for dining at restaurants, staying in hotels or going to work.

Many states and school districts have long required student vaccination for a variety of diseases, such as polio, hepatitis, chicken pox and measles. In that sense, requiring a COVID-19 vaccine would be no different. However, unlike those vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines do not yet have full FDA approval for all age groups, and the evidence suggests that young children are much less vulnerable to serious effects from the disease than adults are.

Additionally, given the highly politicized nature of public perceptions about the COVID-19 threat, actions to prevent its spread and the need for vaccinations, school vaccination policies are likely to spark vocal opposition and legal challenges from some parents, whatever schools decide. Like other COVID-19 prevention measures, these policies are likely to vary by city and state and to reflect the political leanings of the area.

Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030