Oct 29, 2021 - Health

Mixed prospects for vaccinating children

Vaccination intentions mixed prior to COVID-19 vaccine authorization for each age group
Reproduced from KFF Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

As the push begins to vaccinate children 5–11 against COVID, a similar share of parents start off enthusiastic about vaccinating their kids as the share of adults did right before their vaccines were authorized back in December of 2020.

What's happening: Enthusiasm and vaccination rates will grow just as they did for adults.

  • But the size of the group saying they definitely will not vaccinate their kids at the starting gate is about twice as large as it was for adults, and the population that needs convincing — mostly younger adult parents —  is a tougher sell than the general adult population has been.

By the numbers: 27% of parents say they will get their 5-to-11-year-olds vaccinated right away according to our October KFF Vaccine Monitor Report.  

  • That's not very different from the 30% who said the same thing about their 12–15 year olds in April just before vaccines for that group were authorized.
  • And it’s not far off at all from the 34% of adults back in December 2020 who said they would get vaccinated right away.

The share of parents who said they will "wait and see" (33%) is similar to the share of adults who said that (39%). Many parents of younger children will likely overcome their reticence as they see other children they know vaccinated without problems, just as adults who eventually got vaccinated did.

But, but, but: But the share of parents of younger children (30%) saying they will "definitely not" vaccinate their kids is twice as large as the share of adults who said they would not get vaccinated back in December of 2020 (15%).

  • And younger adults, the parents of kids 5–11, are less likely to be vaccinated themselves than adults overall. That may be an indicator of their willingness to vaccinate their kids.

The intrigue: One potential influence on vaccinating kids that isn't being discussed and could be utilized: grandparents (especially grandmothers).

  • 86% of adults 65 and older have had their shots, and they could play a role as advocates for vaccinating kids in communities and families as they often do in public health initiatives around the world.   

The bottom line: It will take some time and a concerted outreach effort by pediatricians, schools, local media, public health groups and other trusted sources of information if vaccination of children 5–11 is to reach the levels we have seen for adults.

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