William Schaffner, MD, on School-Required Immunizations and the COVID-19 Vaccines

In this soundbite, William Schaffner, MD, speaks about what research on school-required immunizations says about the likelihood that parents would allow children to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, even if it is considered safe and effective for children. This topic was presented at the 2021 virtual Annual Conference on Vaccinology Research sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. 

Additional Resource:

  • Beatty S, Villwock J. Attitudes of suburban, Kansas parents regarding school-required immunization of the coronavirus pandemic. Presented at: 2021 Annual Conference on Vaccinology Research; April 26-27, 2021; Virtual.

William Schaffner, MD, is the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and is a professor of preventive medicine in the Department of Health Policy and a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.



Jessica Bard:  Hello, everyone, and welcome to another installment of "Podcast 360," your go‑to resource for medical news and clinical updates. I'm your moderator, Jessica Bard, with Consultant360 Specialty Network.

The Annual Conference on Vaccinology Research has brought together infectious disease researchers and public health experts from around the world for more than 20 years. It's sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

The NFID medical director, Dr. William Schaffner, is here to speak with us about some of the most timely topics presented at the 2021 virtual Annual Conference on Vaccinology Research.

Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Schaffner. Influenza vaccination coverage among children serves as an important example of the public health sector shortcomings. What does research on school required immunization say about the likelihood that parents would allow children to receive the COVID‑19 vaccine, even if it's considered safe and effective?

Dr. William Schaffner:  Well, this is a very interesting question because it has to do not only with the acceptance of the vaccine, but mandating its acceptance. Of course, this is a vaccine that's newly arrived on the scene, and you can imagine that parents would be more reluctant to do so.

It's very interesting that just as our country [laughs] is so split in many ways, so the respondents to this survey were also split. It was basically 50/50. About half of the parents said, "Yes, it's OK to mandate COVID vaccine for our schoolchildren," and the other half were reluctant. They weren't ready to have this vaccine be mandated.

It's actually a question that's not at the front burner right now because this is an emergency use vaccine and no governmental agency will require or mandate vaccination before attendance, for example, in school.

Now, in contrast, private entities such as colleges, universities, or private schools could indeed mandate that students be vaccinated before attendance. As of this recording, I know of at least 100 colleges or universities that are going to require their students coming back in the fall to have COVID vaccine, and that will certainly make their environments very, very low risk.

We will soon be vaccinating schoolchildren, starting with high school children and then working our way gradually down the age ladder as we speak, and I hope that many parents will volunteer their children to be vaccinated. It's important for them and it's important to make the entire school environment very low risk.

Jessica:  Thank you very much for your time today, Dr. Schaffner. I enjoyed speaking with you.

Dr. Schaffner:  [laughs] My great pleasure. Just remember my favorite saying, "When in doubt, vaccinate."