Many US women of childbearing age doubt the safety and effectiveness of vaccination against influenza and COVID-19 during pregnancy, according to a new report from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
The report, released early this week, includes the findings of the second Annenberg Science and Public Health Knowledge Monitor, a randomly drawn, online, national survey fielded by the SSRS Opinion Panel in 10 waves starting in April 2021, the most recent of which included 1,657 adults in January 2023.
Results depended on vaccination status
Most women ages 18 to 49 years (53%) indicated that flu vaccine is safe for women and their fetuses during pregnancy, and 17% said it isn't, compared with 9% of men and 4% of women aged 50 and older. Skepticism was even more evident in the COVID-19 vaccine findings: 42% of women of childbearing age said the vaccine is safe and effective during pregnancy, but 31% said that it isn't, compared with 15% of older women and 19% of men.
The findings differed on vaccination status, with 76% of women of childbearing age vaccinated against the flu indicating that the vaccine is safe during pregnancy, compared with 40% of unvaccinated respondents in that age-group. Similarly, 59% of woman of childbearing age vaccinated against COVID-19 said the vaccine is safe and effective during pregnancy, compared with 8% in unvaccinated participants in this age-group.
In the report, lead author Kathleen Hall Jamieson, PhD, called the results worrisome. "Because the Covid and flu vaccines help protect both those who are pregnant and their infants, dispatching misconceptions about them should be a public health priority," she said.
The findings differed on vaccination status, with 76% of women of childbearing age vaccinated against the flu indicating that the vaccine is safe during pregnancy, compared with 40% of unvaccinated respondents in that age-group.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women receive both vaccines.
Other key findings
- Nearly half (49%) of respondents said they had received a flu shot, comparable to survey results in January 2022 (47%) and April 2021 (50%). Older adults and those with more education were more likely to have been vaccinated.
- Of participants vaccinated against flu, 73% disagreed with the statement "Children do not need the seasonal flu shot because they are at low risk of death from seasonal flu," compared with 41% of unvaccinated adults.
- A total of 47% of respondents say they aren't sure whether COVID-19 infection carries a greater risk of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, than vaccination against the virus.
- Most participants (52%) said they have already returned to their prepandemic "normal life," 61% said they rarely or never wear a mask in public, and about half indicated that they are not worried about a family member becoming severely ill from COVID-19.
- While many adults said the CDC is accurately reporting the side effects and deaths associated with the COVID-19 vaccine, 29% said they aren't sure, and 26% suspect the agency is covering up the true numbers.
- Among all respondents, 42% said a family member has been diagnosed as having a mental illness, while 24% said they themselves have such a diagnosis, and 59% indicated that they know someone with a mental illness. Only 11% of participants ages 65 years and older said they know someone with a mental illness, compared with 37% of those aged 18 to 29.
- Nearly 4 in 10 adults (39%) said that having a gun in the home will raise the odds of suicide, 33% said that it wouldn't, and 27% said they didn't know.