Joshua Blank helped conduct the Lyceum poll, which this year focused on Texans’ attitudes about healthcare. It found that 16 percent of Texans don't think parents should be required to vaccinate their children. Blank said while that may seem like a relatively small percentage, it’s not.
"When you're talking about vaccines, one in 10 parents or two in 10 parents not vaccinating their children is actually all it takes to create a problem — and so it can affect 100 percent of the kids,” Blank said.
And attitudes on issues like vaccinations don’t fall along party lines, Blank said.
"It's not necessarily that there are a bunch of Republicans who against vaccines or a bunch of liberal Democrats who are against vaccines,” Blank said. “Actually, there are no major partisan differences in people's evaluation of the benefits of vaccines. Where you see the real differences are in socioeconomic status."
Sixty-nine percent of Texans who make less than $40,000 a year surveyed said the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks. When polling Texans who make more than $40,000, that figure jumps to 82 percent. Having a college education also makes a Texan more likely to believe the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.
"And it's not that the people with less income or less education automatically think vaccines are bad or that the risks outweigh the benefits,” Blank said, “they just have less certainty. They don't know."
There is a noticeable break along party lines when Texans were asked whether or not vaccines should be required for school children. Twelve percent of Democrats believe parents should be able to opt their children out of required vaccinations. Twenty percent of Republicans think parents should be able to opt out.
Texas does allow parents to opt out of one or all vaccines for reasons of conscience, which could be personal, moral, or religious convictions. According to the Texas Department of Health, there has been a small but steady rise in Texas kindergartners who aren't fully immunized because their parents have petitioned for and received conscientious exemptions.
Free vaccinations are available at the Back 2 School Expo, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, at the Freeman Coliseum Expo Hall. Metro Health is also offering free vaccinations with Medicaid coverage, at 210 Mel Waiters Way and 1226 Northwest 18th St.
Bonnie Petrie can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @kbonniepetrie