U-M poll: Parents split on COVID vaccine for young children

A pharmacist working for the Seattle Indian Health Board holds a syringe of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, Monday, March 15, 2021, at a SIHB clinic in Seattle. The SIHB began vaccinating front line staff from Seattle Public Schools Monday, including substitute teachers, custodians, nutrition services staff, special education teachers, and instructional aides, after determining they had enough doses of the vaccine to share with school workers. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) (Ted S. Warren, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ANN ARBOR – As clinical trials are underway for the COVID vaccine for children age 12 and under, some parents are still hesitant when it comes to getting their children vaccinated, according to a new poll by the University of Michigan.

The University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that parents with children ages 3-11 were nearly evenly split on the matter, with 51 percent saying it’s unlikely they will get their child vaccinated while 49 percent said it is likely.

Although 3 in 4 parents said they will turn to their child’s pediatrician for guidance on COVID vaccination in young children, many said they haven’t yet discussed it with their medical providers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted parents to think about their child’s health and safety in new ways, from mask wearing to attending in-person events,” Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark said in a statement. “As COVID vaccine authorizations expand to younger age groups, parents are also considering whether and when their child should get vaccinated.

“As children prepare to return to school, our poll provides insight into parents’ current stance on vaccinating kids and what factors into their decision making.”

For the report, U-M surveyed 2,019 parents in June who have at least one child between the ages of 3-18.

Among parents of vaccine-eligible children ages 12-18 years, 39 percent said their child is already vaccinated against COVID, 21 percent said their child would likely get the shot and 40 percent said it is unlikely.

The report also found that parents from lower income households were less likely to vaccinate their child against COVID compared to higher income households.

Other factors parents of unvaccinated children said would influence their decision include:

  • Vaccine side effects - 70%
  • Testing in their child’s age group - 63%
  • Vaccine efficacy in children - 62%
  • Parent-led research - 56%

“Typically, parents look to their child’s regular healthcare provider for information and guidance on vaccines for their child,” Clark said in a statement. “But our report suggests that half of parents of children 12-18 years, for whom the COVID vaccine is already recommended and available, have not discussed it with their child’s provider.

“These discussions also aren’t taking place among families of younger children, who are expected to be eligible for the COVID vaccine in the coming months.”

Another finding was that parents mostly felt comfortable going to their child’s doctor’s office to get the COVID vaccine.

“Many parents are used to their children getting vaccines at the doctor’s office,” Clark said in a statement. “Our poll suggests that availability of COVID vaccine in pediatric clinics may help parents feel more comfortable with getting their child vaccinated.”

Clark said that vaccinating children and teens could play a critical role in controlling COVID outbreaks over time and achieving herd immunity.

In 2020, more than 2 million COVID cases in the U.S. -- out of nearly 30 million total confirmed cases -- involved children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although most children and teens experience mild symptoms, some develop long haul symptoms or, in rare instances, a serious condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, more commonly referred to as MIS-C.

Clark urges parents to ask their pediatrician about the COVID vaccine during scheduled visits.

“It’s important that parents and providers don’t wait for full COVID vaccine approval to begin discussions about vaccination,” she said in a statement.

“Our poll suggests parents are already forming opinions, and it’s essential that their decision-making process include accurate information, as well as a professional recommendation from the child’s healthcare provider.”