Vaccines: an issue that Republicans and Democrats already agree about

I wanted to take a break from the usual postings to talk about something a little different. Prompted by the recent measles outbreak in California, a bipartisan group of Washington legislators has introduced a bill that would remove the vaccination exemption for those with “personal or philosophical objections.” Religious objectors would still be exempted, as would students who cannot receive vaccinations for bona fide medical reasons. 

I believe this common-sense measure will pass—so long as its supporters keep two things in mind, and be sure to communicate those two things to others. First, there’s no real ideological disagreement among the public on this issue. Second, the vast majority of parents in this country vaccinate their children, which means that the people who shout the loudest shouldn’t drown out the silent majority. 

Everyone knows there’s no scientific controversy on the safety of vaccines. Scientists agree: they’re safe (and they’re necessary for public health!). There’s no real political controversy about vaccines, either. Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, all support vaccination at about the same rate. Here’s a chart from Yale’s Cultural Cognition Project showing that—particularly compared to other controversial issues—there’s no real disagreement about vaccines across the political spectrum:

 Source: Cultural Cognition Project, Dan M. Kahan, Report No. 17, at 28 (2014).

Source: Cultural Cognition Project, Dan M. Kahan, Report No. 17, at 28 (2014).

In addition, the vast majority of parents—for most vaccines, well over 90%—already vaccinate their children, as this CDC chart shows:

 Vaccination laws

So don’t be deceived. People who don’t vaccinate their children may shout the loudest, but they don’t represent the vast majority of Americans who, regardless of their political beliefs, believe that vaccinating their children is the right thing to do. 

If you’re a Washington resident, please feel free to contact me if you’d like to get involved in improving our state’s immunization laws.