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According to a new survey, three-quarters of parents do not plan to vaccinate their children against COVID-19 when the FDA gives permission to younger children. Many said they would wait a few months, but a full third said they do not plan to vaccinate their children.
The poll, from polling company Invisibly, asked 1,258 parents about their thoughts on the COVID vaccine for their children. The majority, 53%, said they plan to get vaccinated eventually, but only 26% said they would do so immediately. This keeps track of the results of a file previous study of Indiana University, which found that more than a quarter of parents will not vaccinate their children.
For now, all of these plans are speculative, as only the Pfizer vaccine for children is approved and the limit is 16 years. Recently completed clinical trials found that the vaccine was 100% effective in children 12 to 15 years old and the FDA is studying the data and expects to authorize it for teens ages 12 to 15 next week. Moderna’s teen clinical trial is still underway and Johnson & Johnson’s is just beginning. Pfizer and Moderna have also started studies in children up to 6 months.
Returns to Normal versus Fear of the Unknown
Tanya Haas, of North Branch, New York, has three children: two children under 3 years old and another 16 years old. A former pediatric ICU nurse, she is considered extremely supportive of the vaccine, but plans to stop vaccinating her younger children once. Vaccines against COVID are available.
“I won’t say I’ll never get them, but I don’t want to jump,” he says. “I’ll have to see a bigger sample size of kids who get it.” Because she and her husband are vaccinated, she believes she can keep her little ones safe until then.
This belief reflects another finding from the Indiana University study. “Amid the spread of accurate information and politicized misinformation about possible side effects, many mothers feel more able to control the risks of coronavirus than the risks of the coronavirus vaccine,” wrote Jessica Calarco, one of the study authors, wrote in The Washington Post .
When it comes to his 16-year-old, who is old enough to get vaccinated right now, Haas leaves the decision to him. “He was scared to play basketball without that, but he’s a little nervous about the vaccine. He’s still thinking about it,” he says.
Gretchen Schaeffer’s 14-year-old daughter, on the other hand, can’t wait to get vaccinated. “He’s a freshman in high school. He wants to have nights and parties, the typical high school experience,” Schaeffer says. “My youngest daughter is happy playing outside right now, but the teens want to go to the family room and watch a movie. They want more freedom, space.”
Schaeffer, a college instructor in Bangor, ME, is comfortable with the decision. “I’m from the field that says yes, the vaccine could be new, but it’s also a new disease. The risks of the disease far outweigh the risks of the vaccine.”
One thing that can help reassure hesitant parents: the extremely promising data from Pfizer’s teen trials.
“Viously, obviously the FDA has to look at it, but have 100% safety and efficacy and a big boost in antibodies? It’s amazing,” says Donna Hallas, Ph.D., who wrote an analysis of the COVID vaccine development process. per Contemporary pediatrics. “I don’t know of any other vaccine with this dataset for anyone.”
A look at the changes in adults ’desire to be vaccinated over the past few months suggests it may be right. In late 2020, the Pew Research Center found that the willingness of Americans to get the vaccine increased as they gained confidence in its development.
The wait-and-see approach can also be short-lived. Since the vaccine began rolling out for adults in December, the proportion of Americans who have already been vaccinated or plan to do so as soon as possible has grown. At the end of March, only 17% still say they want to “wait and see,” according to follow-up by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“It’s not uncommon for parents to say they’ll sit back and wait a bit,” Hallas says. “It doesn’t mean they have doubts, they just want to gather information.”
Returning to full-time face-to-face school can cause many parents to vaccinate their children. There are already more than 100 colleges and universities that need to vaccinate students. Hallas believes it may also be necessary for K-12 schools if we regain a sense of normalcy.
“Going back to school means kids will be playing sports, playing instruments, singing to their heart’s content. In order to really come back, schools are likely to have to say we need vaccinated kids,” he says. “If they don’t force vaccination in schools and only half of the children get vaccinated, there are a lot of children who could spread disease.”
This large number of unvaccinated children might be enough prevent the U.S. from reaching herd immunity. “There will be outbreaks in schools,” Hallas says. “They will be extended to those at home who may not be able to get vaccinated and then continue to spread.”
Invisibly: “Parents are wary of vaccinating their children against COVID.”
NBC News: “Pfizer Requests FDA Authorization for Vaccine in Children 15 to 15 Years Old”
Today: “When will children get the COVID-19 vaccine? What do we know now?”
Press Release, Johnson & Johnson, April 2, 2021.
Tanya Haas, North Branch, New York.
Gretchen Schaeffer, Bangor, ME.
Donna Hallas, Ph.D., director of the NP Pediatrics program, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.
Contemporary pediatrics: “Analysis of COVID-19 Clinical Trials: A Guide to Reducing Vaccination Vaccination.”
Pew Research Center: “The intention to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine increases by up to 60% as confidence in research and development processes increases.”
Kaiser Family Foundation: “KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: March 2021”.
CNN: “More than 100 U.S. colleges and universities are now demanding that students be vaccinated against Covid-19.”