Parental doubt may be driving low COVID vaccine uptake in US kids

As of July, less than 4% of US children 6 months to 4 years old had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with 59% of parents of unvaccinated children saying they were open to it, and 37% expressing reluctance.

The data, from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, were published today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

On Jun 18, the CDC recommended that children aged 6 months to 4 years be vaccinated against COVID-19. Uptake, however, has been low, with only 5.9% of those younger than 2 years and 8.8% of those aged 2 to 4 years receiving one or more doses as of Nov 9.

CDC researchers analyzed data from 4,496 National Immunization Survey-Child COVID Module phone interviews of parents of children in this age-group from Jul 1 to 29.

In December 2021, before the COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for preschoolers, 41.3% of parents said they would definitely have their child vaccinated, but that figure fell to 33.5% in May 2022.

By mid-July 2022, only 3.5% of children were vaccinated. Of the parents of unvaccinated children, 59.3% said they were open to vaccination (22.6% said they definitely would, 16.4% probably would, and 20.3% were unsure), while 37.2% stated their reluctance to do so (13.0% probably wouldn't, and 24.3% definitely wouldn't).

Parents of Hispanic (66.2%), Black (61.1%), and Asian (83.1%) children were more likely to consider vaccination than those of White (52.9%) parents, and parents living in rural areas (45.8%) were less open to vaccination than those in urban areas (64.1%). Only 1.6% of rural children were vaccinated, compared with 4.2% in urban areas.

Parents of unvaccinated children expressed less confidence in the safety of the vaccine and were less likely than those of vaccinated children to report receipt of a clinician recommendation to vaccinate. Of parents open to vaccination, 25% said their clinician recommended it, and 57% said the vaccine was safe.

"COVID-19 vaccine recommendations from a health care provider, along with dissemination of information about the safety of COVID-19 vaccine by trusted persons, could increase vaccination coverage among young children," the researchers wrote.

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