TOPEKA — A new poll commissioned by a Kansas City family health organization found that 95% of residents in the state’s most populous areas believe wellness vaccines are safe and effective.
Tracy Russell, executive director of Nurture KC, says the poll results provide a stark contrast to legislative debates built around a vocal minority spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.
A majority of Kansans support the Kansas health secretary’s authority to determine childhood vaccination requirements and reject the idea of adding philosophical objections to vaccine requirements, as the legislature has done. during the extraordinary session in November. However, 93% of survey respondents are in Kansas City, Wichita or Topeka, raising questions about whether their opinions reflect those of the state’s rural population.
Russell said vaccines have been a mainstay of public health, and the poll shows that still resonates with Kansans.
“It really goes against what we hear from the Statehouse from some very vocal bands,” Russell said.
In recent weeks, lawmakers have held hearings on bills championed by anti-vaxxers. They include a proposal to block the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from adding COVID-19 to the list of required vaccinations for public schools or daycares.
Public Opinion Strategies, a national pollster, conducted the survey with 600 voters, including 288 who answered questions online, between January 27 and February 3. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4%.
Respondents were 52% female and 48% male, and evenly split across age groups and education levels. They were 43% Republicans, 25% Independents and 28% Democrats. They include 40% of Wichita, 38% of Kansas City, 15% of Topeka, and 7% of the rest of the state.
The results show that 96% of Republicans, 95% of Independents and 98% of Democrats think wellness vaccines are safe. Similarly, 97% of Republicans, 95% of Independents, and 100% of Democrats think wellness vaccines are effective. The poll found that 85% support the authority of the KDHE Secretary to set vaccine policy and oppose transferring that authority to the Legislative Assembly.
Also, according to the survey results, most people get their vaccine information from doctors and health care providers.
“I was a little worried about whether we were going to see huge margins of people getting most of their information from the internet,” Russell said. “It didn’t work in this poll. Still, these health care providers are the most reliable source for this information.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 60% of Kansans, including 70.8% of adults, are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The virus has killed more than 7,900 Kansans in the past two years.
Russell revealed the poll results Friday during a daily University of Kansas Health System video briefing. Her organization, which receives funding through a federal grant, serves pregnant women and their families in areas of Kansas City that have the highest infant mortality rates.
Stephen Lauer, a pediatrician at KU Health System, said he was encouraged by the results.
“A lot of the messaging we’re hearing now comes from a very small vocal group that gets, well, kindly, a bunch of misinformation in front of people,” Lauer said.
People “believe what they don’t see,” Lauer said.
“What they don’t see is smallpox, polio, measles, influenza H, meningitis, whooping cough, all the diseases their grandparents feared,” Lauer said.
Steve Stites, chief medical officer of the KU Health System, said we are 50 years away from polio and other once-common diseases due to the success of vaccines.
“We understand that sometimes there are bad outcomes with a vaccine, right?” Stites said. “These happen. They are incredibly rare. But I tell you, poliomyelitis is much worse. And measles, mumps and rubella – these are very bad diseases. And I think we’ve lived in that time where we sometimes forget it, because we don’t see it.
Stites said it would be helpful to explore more opinions from the 25% of the state’s population who live outside of Kansas City, Wichita and Topeka.
“We know there has been more vaccine hesitancy in rural Kansas than there has been in urban Kansas,” Stites said.