C.S. Mott Poll: 1 in 3 parents to skip child’s flu shot during pandemic

Poll suggests pandemic doesn’t influence parent beliefs about importance of flu vaccination

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Public health experts have suggested that people of all ages should receive a seasonal flu shot, but one in three parents plans to skip vaccinating their child, according to a new poll.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine suggests that parental beliefs about flu vaccinations may not be impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The poll report, which includes 1,992 responses from parents of children ages two to 18-years-old surveyed in August, found that parents who did not get their children the flu vaccine in 2019 were least likely to so in 2020.

“We may see peaks of flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could overwhelm the health care system, strain testing capacity and potentially reduce our ability to catch and treat both respiratory illnesses effectively,” Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark told Michigan Health.

“Our report finds that even during the pandemic, some parents don’t see the flu vaccine as more urgent or necessary. This heightens concerns about how the onset of flu season may compound challenges in managing COVID-19.”

Last year there were 188 pediatric flu deaths reported during the 2019-2020 flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Of parents who said their children are unlikely to get the flu vaccine this year, 32% referenced concerns about side effects or the efficiency of the vaccine, according to the report.

Another 14% said they were keeping their children away from health care sites due to the coronavirus pandemic, while 9% pointed to their child’s fear of needles for their reason to not schedule a flu shot.

Only 28% of parents who did not get their children a flu shot in 2019, indicated their child is likely to receive the flu shot this year.

The poll found that only one-third of parents believe giving their child the flu vaccine this year is more important in comparison to previous years.

Nevertheless, 96% of parents who got their children vaccinated in 2019 said they plan on doing so again.

Clark said that public health officials face challenges in connecting with parents who do not regularly get their children immunized.

Additionally, parents whose health care providers strongly recommended the vaccine were more likely to give it to their child; however, only 44% of surveyed parents said their child’s healthcare provider made strong recommendations.

The report suggests that health care providers emphasize the importance of the flu vaccine during the COVID pandemic, and to make a clear recommendation for children 6-months-old or older. It states that healthcare providers, who may have fewer in-person visits with children, utilize other strategies including reminder postcard or website banners.

Find the Mott Poll Report here.

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.