Oct 4, 2022 - COVID

Penn researchers explore how COVID misinformation hampers child vax rates

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Misinformation remains a big reason why only about 30% of American children ages 5-11 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, UPenn researchers found in a new study.

Why it matters: Health officials have been raising alarm over the potential of low child vaccination rates fueling transmission and carrying the risk of severe illness for some of our nation's youngest, Axios' Erin Doherty reports.

What they're saying: Misinformation about the safety of all vaccines, but especially the COVID-19 jab, is responsible for the "dramatic discrepancy" in child and adult rates, researchers at UPenn's Annenberg Public Policy Center said in a study published in the journal Vaccine.

  • Some still believe claims about vaccines that researchers say have been debunked, such as that they caused thousands of deaths, led to increased infertility or altered recipients' DNA.
  • Kathleen Hall Jamieson, co-author of the study and director at Annenberg Public Policy Center, said "allaying these unwarranted concerns should be a public health priority."

Details: The research was drawn from a national probability survey of more than 1,600 adults across the nation, taken in April, June and September of 2021 and again in January 2022, months after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines for kids ages 5-11.

Between the lines: Those concerns were a "powerful predictor" about whether people who were surveyed chose to get vaccinated, researchers said.

  • Only 40% of those who were more prone to believe misinformation received recommended COVID-19 vaccines as of September 2021, compared with 96% of people who "reported the lowest level of belief in misinformation," researchers said.
  • Even adults who were vaccinated were still reluctant to get their kids vaccinated, with only a little more than half saying they were "very likely" to vaccinate children between 5 and 11.
  • The study also found less support for the jab among parents of Black and Latino children, evangelical Christians, Republicans and women.

By the numbers: The mortality rate remains low among children, with fewer than 1,500 reported deaths in the U.S. for those under 18 as of Sept. 28, according to the CDC.

  • 546 of those deaths were children ages 4 or younger, according to the latest CDC data.

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