Please see the study for all authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
More than half of surveyed parents said they were likely to follow the advice of their child’s primary care physician when it came to COVID-19 vaccination, according to results published in Academic Pediatrics.
COVID-19 vaccines are now authorized and recommended for children aged as young as 6 months in the United States, although vaccine uptake for children aged younger than 11 years in the U.S. has been slow, and prior research has shown that nearly 25% of U.S. parents were vaccine hesitant before the pandemic.
“Surveys on parental COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy have assessed risk factors and estimated parental hesitancy nationally,” the authors of the new study wrote. “In particular, prior surveys have noted disparities in vaccine intent, with Black parents being more hesitant. However, these studies have not included large numbers of racial and ethnic minorities. These surveys have had relatively low numbers of parents from Native American and Asian American-Pacific Islander (AAPI) populations.”
A total of 3,232 parents completed the surveys in five languages between May 7 through June 7, 2021. The FDA authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 years on May 10, 2021, during the first days of the survey, but it had been authorized for adolescents as young as age 16 years for around 5 months.
The survey asked parents: “Although the vaccine rollout is currently focused on adults, soon there will be a similar effort to vaccinate children across the country. As vaccines become available for those under age 18, do you plan to sign your child/children up for the vaccine?”
Responses available to parents included that they would sign up a child of any age for vaccination, that their child had already been vaccinated, that they would vaccinate older children but not younger ones, that they would not sign up any children, or that they did not know.
A quarter of the parents identified themselves as Latino or Latina, whereas 22% of respondents were white, 18% were AAPI, another 18% were Native American and 17% were Black.
Survey responses indicated that 4% of parents of 16- to 17-year-olds already had their children vaccinated at the time, and 23% of these parents stated on the survey that either they had or will have their children vaccinated. The researchers also found that AAPI (45%), Latino/Latina (33%) and Native American parents (42%) had a higher intent to vaccinate than Black (23%) or white (20%) parents.
More than 30% in all groups agreed with the statement that COVID-19 vaccines might cause lasting health problems for their children, and a “sizable proportion of parents who were not intending to vaccinate their child” agreed with the statement that they “did not believe in vaccinating children [with the COVID-19 vaccine].”
The authors noted that the survey was conducted before any COVID-19 vaccines received full FDA approval and around the same time of early reports about the vaccines being linked to myocarditis, which “may have influenced parental responses.”
“Most parental concerns were related to not having enough research done with children, vaccine side effects, and potential long-lasting effects from the vaccines,” they wrote.
“These concerns were most prominent among white parents.”
The authors also asked parents about their trust in sources of information about COVID-19 vaccination, with parents showing the most trust in personal doctors/primary care physicians, their child’s doctor, family, or friends who have received the vaccine, the state health department, and CDC, whereas fewer respondents trusted pharmacies or religious leaders.
The survey found that 58% of all parents stated they would follow their health care provider’s recommendations on the vaccine for children, “with variations by racial and ethnic groups: AAPI (69%), Black (51%), Latino (58%), Native American (52%), and white (58%).”
“Pediatric providers should be well informed in educating parents about the safety and efficacy of the currently approved vaccines as well as the short- and long-term side effects of COVID-19 infection,” they wrote.
The researchers cited a previous study that found that 47% of parents who initially refused vaccination chose to vaccinate their child after a discussion with their pediatrician, “so it is important to discuss vaccination repeatedly, even for parents who previously refused.”
“While many providers are educating parents about the COVID-19 vaccines during Well-Child Checks, it is important for providers to educate parents and families about vaccine efficacy and safety for COVID-19 vaccines during all visits as long as the pandemic period lasts,” they wrote.