Just a month after the Food and Drug Administration approved Covid-19 vaccines for very young children, the prediction that a large number of them will actually get vaccinated looks bleak, according to a new survey of parents published on Tuesday at the Kaiser Family Foundationwhich tracked attitudes towards vaccines throughout the pandemic.
Most of the parents interviewed said they considered the vaccine more dangerous for their children than the coronavirus itself.
For kids in the 6-month-to-4-year-old age group, parental concerns have so far resulted in them getting barely a trickle of Covid shots. Since June 18, when they became eligible for the vaccine, only 2.8 percent of these children have been vaccinated, the foundation recently found in separate analysis of federal vaccine data. In comparison, 18.5% of children aged 5 to 11 who have been eligible for the Covid vaccine since October were vaccinated during the same rollout phase.
A new study found that 43 percent of parents with children under 5 said they would “definitely not” vaccinate them. About 27 percent said they would “wait and see” and another 13 percent said they would vaccinate their children “only if necessary.” Even some parents who have themselves been vaccinated against Covid have said they will not give permission for their younger children.
A new analysis of parental perceptions comes as the introduction of vaccines for older children is noticeably slowing down. To date, only 40 percent of children aged 5 to 11 have been vaccinated. In a new survey, 37 percent of parents said they “definitely would not” get their child in that age group vaccinated against Covid.
Parents’ main concerns were related to the potential side effects of the vaccine, its relative novelty, and the lack of sufficient research. Many parents have said they are willing to let their children take the risk of contracting Covid rather than receive a vaccine to prevent it.
Child vaccination experts said they were alarmed by parental hesitation at a time when Covid cases are on the rise again and are expected to worsen during the colder months, as new and potentially more dangerous variants of the coronavirus remain possible.
While the vast majority of children who get Covid get over it easily, “some kids get very, very sick from it and some die,” said Patricia A. Stinchfield, president of the National Infectious Diseases Foundation. She did not participate in Kaiser’s study.
How a child will live with Covid is unpredictable, Ms. Stinchfield, a nurse practitioner who coordinated the introduction of the vaccine at Children’s Minnesota, a system of children’s hospitals in St. Louis. Paul and Minneapolis. “We don’t have a marker for that,” she said. “Half of the children who become ill with severe Covid are healthy children without any comorbidities. So the idea of saying ‘I’m going to skip this vaccine for my child, we’re not worried about Covid’ is really a risk.”
This latest report is based on an online and telephone survey conducted between June 7 and 17 of 1,847 adults, 471 of whom had a child under the age of 5. The error was plus or minus 3 percentage points for the entire sample and plus or minus 8 percentage points for parents with a child under 5 years old.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the party split has been particularly stark on child vaccinations: Republican parents are three times more likely than Democratic parents to say they “definitely won’t” vaccinate their child.
Most parents said they found the federal government’s information about a vaccine for their children confusing. At the same time, 70% said that they had not yet discussed vaccinations with a pediatrician. Only 27 percent of parents who are considering vaccination said they would make an appointment to talk about it.
Parents who may be predisposed to having their children vaccinated against Covid said the lack of access was a major barrier, with concerns expressed more by black and Hispanic parents than by white parents. About 44 percent of black parents are worried that they will have to take time off from work to get their children vaccinated or take care of them if their children develop side effects. Among Hispanic parents of young children, 45 percent said they were worried about finding a reliable place to get vaccinated, and about a third feared they would have to pay for it.
Mrs. Stinchfield said she understands their concerns: her own daughter was forced to quit her job to vaccinate her mistress. Stinchfield’s grandchildren, 1 and 3 years old. Stinchfield went with them to the clinic. “Message to clinics: Make the vaccine available for children in the evenings and weekends,” she said.
Did her grandchildren have side effects? Well, miss. Stinchfield said with a chuckle. “They felt so good that we put them in a small paddling pool,” she said. “And now my granddaughter has a band-aid tan from a band-aid shot in her leg.”