A survey of 898 parents found that more were very likely to vaccinate their children against COVID-19 after reading messages indicating that other trusted parents have done so or that the vaccine is safe, but not when the messages said the vaccine is well-tolerated.
The results were published today in Pediatrics.
Children's Hospital of Chicago researchers led the study, which involved data from the Voices of Child Health in Chicago Parent Panel Survey in October and November 2021. The investigators randomly assigned 898 parents to read one of four vaccine scenarios and report their intention to vaccinate each child 0 to 17 years old in their household. A control group received only information on the expected timeline for vaccine authorization for children.
Trusted-parents scenario convinced the hesitant
Relative to controls (37.5%), the proportion of parents very likely to vaccinate their children was greater when the messages indicated that other trusted parents have vaccinated their children (53.3%) or that the vaccine is safe and thoroughly tested (48.9%), but not when they said the vaccine is well-tolerated (41.5%).
After adjustment for parent and child characteristics, the likelihood of being very likely to vaccinate was still higher in the trusted-parents message group but not in the safe-and-tested group.
This is an urgent need because some methods to encourage vaccination, such as correcting myths about vaccines, have been shown to be counterproductive.
The trusted-parents message was most effective among unvaccinated and Black parents, who tend to be the most vaccine-hesitant, but all racial differences disappeared when parents were given the trusted-parents and safe-and-tested messages at the same time.
"These findings have implications for public health messaging and pediatric providers' communications with parents," the researchers wrote.
Senior author Matthew Davis, MD, said in a Children's Hospital of Chicago news release that the findings help clarify how different messages influence parents' intent to vaccinate. "This is an urgent need because some methods to encourage vaccination, such as correcting myths about vaccines, have been shown to be counterproductive and inadvertently discourage vaccination," he said.