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Some parents vaccinated against COVID are hesitant to get their children vaccinated

A 13-year-old receives his first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination. The FDA may soon authorize the vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.
Shafkat Anowar
A 13-year-old receives his first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination. The FDA may soon authorize the vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.

Updated October 29, 2021 at 11:49 AM ET

New research suggests parents may take a more cautious approach when it comes to deciding if they'll get their younger children vaccinated against COVID-19, compared with their decision to get themselves vaccinated.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years old in the coming days, after a panel of independent advisers to the FDA recommended it do so.

A survey published by Kaiser Family Foundation this week suggests there's a group of parents eager to get the shot for their younger kids: 3 in 10 of parents surveyed said that they are ready to get a COVID-19 vaccine for them as soon as one is authorized, said Liz Hamel, vice president and director of public opinion and survey research at KFF.

But one-third of parents want to wait and see how the vaccine is working for other people before they get their child vaccinated. And about 3 in 10 say they don't plan to get their child the vaccine.

"When it comes to younger kids, we have to keep in mind that this vaccine is still a hypothetical at this point. It is not yet available to them," Hamel told NPR's Morning Edition. "The full approval hasn't come through."

Interview Highlights

Do you anticipate more buy-in from parents once the FDA and the CDC offer guidance?

What we expect to see is some parents that say they're ready, once that authorization comes through, they will go out and get it. But for the parents who are saying they want to wait and see, what we've found is that they want to see other people around them getting the vaccine and they want to see how they react. So, we saw that with adults and with teens over time: Once people saw their friends and their family members getting the vaccine, that's when we saw the size of that wait-and-see group start to shrink and more people going out and getting at. I would expect that a similar thing would happen with parents of younger kids as well.

What do you think is going on with the group that is a definite "No"?

For adults, we've seen that people who say that they're definitely not going to get the vaccine themselves, that has a lot to do with just not believing that COVID is a big risk to them.

With children, we find parents are generally more cautious than they are when it comes to even getting the vaccine themselves. They're more concerned about the potential long-term effects for their children. And so, I think that's also playing into that group that says they definitely don't want to get the vaccine for their kids.

What do you think will be the biggest drivers to eventually get more parents on board?

I do think that it is going to take a longer time for parents to come around to the decision of getting this vaccine for their children than it has for adults to make the decision for themselves. I do think it has to do with the biggest concern being the potential long-term effects. I think the way parents think of the potential long-term effects on a 5-year-old are different than the way a 40-year-old thinks about the long-term effects on themselves. And so I do expect that it might take longer for parents to come around and be comfortable with this. That said I think that pediatricians are going to play a huge role here. We know that pediatricians are far and away the most trusted source of information on vaccines for parents, and so I think, over time, if parents are hearing recommendations from their pediatrician to get the vaccine, I think that that will make a difference for them getting their kids vaccinated.

Emma Bowman produced the digital story.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Kelley Dickens

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