August 16, 2022, 1:45 p.m. News Staff — As school-age children across the United States return to in-person learning, data from the Kaiser Family Foundation show that parents continue to have concerns about vaccinating their children against the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, with a slim majority of parents of very young children perceiving the vaccines as a bigger risk to their child’s health than getting infected.
According to the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor published at the end of July, the number of parents with children between the ages of 5 and 11 who said they definitely would not get their children vaccinated against COVID-19 has risen somewhat since the previous survey in April, and vaccination rates in children ages 12 to 17, although higher than those seen last year, have remained essentially the same since the start of 2022. The survey assessed parental concerns about the vaccines based on age, race, political affiliation, education level and other variables.
The most recent survey was conducted July 7-17. Surveys were conducted online and by telephone, and the population consisted of a nationally representative sample of 1,847 U.S. adults, with interviews conducted in English and Spanish.
It should be noted that the survey was conducted several months after the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved for use in children ages 5 to 11 years and three weeks after the CDC approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines — both mRNA vaccines — in children and infants as young as 6 months, but shortly before the agency approved the use of Novavax, a traditional protein-based vaccine, in individuals 18 and older.
Among the more positive results, 76% of adults stated that they had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 49% said they were fully vaccinated and had received at least one booster shot. However, 23% of adults said they had not received any doses of a COVID-19 vaccine; of those, 81% said they definitely will not get vaccinated.
Adult confidence in COVID-19 vaccine safety varied based on patient age. While 70% of adult respondents said they were very or somewhat confident that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for adults, only 62% thought they were safe for children ages 12 to 17, 55% thought they were safe for children ages 5 to 11, and 48% thought they were safe in very young children.
The percentage of parents who said they were very or somewhat worried that their child would get seriously sick from COVID has largely declined over time, from a high of 57% in September 2021 to 44% in the most recent survey.
The survey also examined parental reports of vaccine uptake based on the ages of their children. Among parents with children ages 12 to 17 years:
Among parents of children ages 5 to 11 years:
Among parents of children ages 6 months to 4 years:
Parents of unvaccinated children in this age group also were asked about specific vaccine-related concerns. Among the responses:
These findings confirm that discussing vaccine hesitancy and improving confidence in COVID-19 vaccines are challenges that many family physicians still face, despite the federal government having first declared the pandemic a public health emergency in January 2020.
Since that time, the Academy has been hard at work developing resources for members, beginning with the creation of a COVID-19 webpage that has undergone significant expansions over the past two years. The page now directs visitors to dozens of COVID-19 resources for FPs and their patients, including specific sections that cover vaccines, therapeutics, practice management, CME, advocacy and more. There’s even a COVID-19 member community where FPs can discuss the latest news, ask questions and connect directly with AAFP staff.
In July, the Academy unveiled yet another resource to guide members on the use of COVID-19 vaccines in young children when AAFP President Sterling Ransone, M.D., spoke with Cameron Webb, M.D., J.D., the senior policy adviser for equity with the White House COVID-19 response team. The Q&A session addressed not only ongoing vaccination efforts, but also discussed the latest COVID-19 variants, guidance on booster shots, and previews the upcoming influenza season.
An additional tool soon will be available for family physicians and other health care professionals, as AAFP Board Chair Ada Stewart, M.D., of Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to participate in a COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project webinar, “Deep Dive Into COVID-19 Vaccines for Younger Children and Infants,” Aug. 18 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT. The webinar will focus on addressing parental concerns about childhood COVID-19 vaccines and ways to increase confidence in the vaccines for eligible children. Registration is required to attend; registrants will receive a link to the event in their confirmation email, as well as a reminder email before the event starts.
Be sure to bookmark the Academy’s COVID-19 webpage for access to the latest news and information.