One-third of parents ready to vaccinate young children

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With Pfizer filing for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine in children under age 5, some parents are taking notice. But only some: According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey, just 31% of parents say they plan to get their young children vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as possible.

That figure is an increase from 23%, recorded in September 2021, and 20% in July 2021.

Meanwhile, 29% of such parents said they’ll take a wait-and-see approach, while 12% said they’d only get their young children vaccinated if it was required. Twenty-six percent said they definitely would not vaccinate their child.

Figures from other age groups show a general trend of vaccination acceptance increasing somewhat over time. After holding fairly steady for several months, the share of parents who say their 12-17 year-old has gotten at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine increased from 49% in November to 61% in January. 

At the same time, the share of parents who say they want to “wait and see” before getting their teen vaccinated fell to a new low of 6%. One-quarter of parents still say they will “definitely not” get their 12-17 year-old vaccinated for COVID-19, while a further 4% say they will only get their teen vaccinated if they are required to do so for school.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT

The numbers are significant for hospitals because of the numerous coronavirus surges that have strained hospital resources, thinned margins and strained capacity, causing burnout and frustration among many healthcare professionals. Data has shown vaccination is effective at slowing the spread of the virus and mitigating its symptoms, thereby allowing the infected to largely avoid hospitalization or death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently expanded eligibility of COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech booster doses to those ages 12-17, and 21% of parents of vaccinated 12-17-year-olds report their teenager has already received the booster shot. Around two-thirds of parents say their vaccinated teenager will “definitely” or “probably get” their booster shot (65%), with a much smaller number saying they “probably” or “definitely won’t” get the booster (14%).

COVID-19 vaccine uptake also appears to have increased for younger children over the past two months, though remaining much lower than among teens. One-third of parents of 5-11 year-olds now say their child is vaccinated (33%), double the share of parents who said so in November (16%). The biggest change comes in the share who say they will “wait and see” before getting their child vaccinated, decreasing from 32% in November to 19% now. Another 13% say they’ll get their 5-11 year-old vaccinated right away, while 24% will “definitely not” get them vaccinated, and 9% will only do it if required.

Despite many parents being worried about their child getting sick from COVID-19, 79% of parents of unvaccinated children ages 5-17 say news of the Omicron variant doesn’t make a difference in the likelihood that they’ll get their child vaccinated. Around one in seven (14%) parents of unvaccinated kids say the news makes them “more likely” to get their child vaccinated and 6% say it makes them “less likely.”

Four in 10 parents of school-age children report some type of disruption to their child’s in-person learning in the first month of the year, including needing to quarantine, schools shutting down in-person classes, or parents choosing to keep children home due to safety concerns. Most (63%) say their child’s school did not provide access to COVID-19 testing before returning to classes in January.

THE LARGER TREND

If authorization is granted, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be the first COVID-19 vaccine available for pediatric populations under 5 years of age.

This potentially includes protection from future emerging variants of concern.
Pfizer and BioNTech have initiated the rolling submission seeking to amend the emergency use authorization of their COVID-19 vaccine in response to the urgent public health need in this population, Pfizer said. The companies expect to complete the EUA submission in the coming days.

Since the pandemic began, more than 10.6 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., according to Pfizer data. Children under 4 account for more than 1.6 million of those cases. And reported COVID-19 cases and related hospitalization among children have spiked dramatically across the country during the Omicron variant surge.

For the week ending January 22, children under 4 accounted for 3.2% of the total hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

Earlier this month, the FDA authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot for children 12-to15-years old.

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