Student Well-Being

COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids Are Coming. How Many Parents Will Opt for the Shot?

By Arianna Prothero — October 29, 2021 3 min read
Image of young boy wearing a mask getting a bandage applied after a vaccine.
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A COVID-19 vaccine for elementary school children is poised to get emergency approval from the federal government. But when that happens, will parents actually get their kids vaccinated?

A little more than a quarter of parents with children ages 5 to 11 plan to do it right away, according to the latest polling data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. But 30 percent said in the October survey they definitely will not get their children vaccinated against COVID-19, and that number has ticked up over the past three months.

That still leaves 33 percent of parents who say they plan to wait and see before getting their children inoculated, and another 5 percent who indicated they would only if it’s required.

So, what does this mean for schools? Aside from the fact that getting students vaccinated will make in-person learning safer—as well as more consistent and manageable—schools can play an important role in addressing parents’ fears around the vaccine and combating misinformation.

Earlier polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation in August found that parents whose children attended a school that provided information on the vaccine or encouraged its uptake were more likely to say their child had been vaccinated.

Of parents whose children are between 12 and 17, and therefore eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, 62 percent of those whose school encouraged getting the COVID-19 vaccine said their child was vaccinated, compared with 30 percent in schools where the vaccine was not encouraged.

In schools that provided information about the vaccine, 58 percent of parents said their child was vaccinated compared with 32 percent in schools where no information was provided.

Higher income parents were more likely to say that their child’s school had given them information on COVID-19 vaccines or encouraged vaccination.

Schools have long been a trusted source of public health information for families. Public health experts say schools can help families overcome their hesitancy toward vaccinating their children through a variety of strategies, including connecting families to experts who can answer their questions, incentivizing the vaccine through prizes, and by having school leaders and personnel normalize the vaccine by sharing their personal experiences with getting vaccinated.

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Overall, 46 percent of parents of children 12 and older said their child had been vaccinated against COVID-19 by October. Similar to parents of younger children, 31 percent said they would definitely not allow their child to get the vaccine and 5 percent said they would only if required.

Why are parents worried about the COVID-19 vaccine?

Concerns about unknown, long-term effects, serious side effects, and infertility are some of the biggest concerns among parents of younger children when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Three quarters of parents of children ages 5-11 said they are very or somewhat concerned about not knowing enough about the long-term effects of the vaccine on children. Seventy-one percent cited concerns over serious side effects, and 66 percent said they are worried that the vaccine will negatively affect their child’s fertility later in life.

But parents cited other concerns that were simply related to logistics, and something schools should be aware of. Concerns around vaccine access were heightened among parents making less than $50,000 a year.

Fifty-one percent of parents in that income range said they were very or somewhat concerned about taking time off from work to care for a sick child, should they experience side effects from the vaccine. That’s compared with 35 percent of parents overall.

Forty-five percent of parents making less than $50,000 said they are concerned about having to pay out-of-pocket for the vaccine, and 38 percent said they will have a hard time getting transportation to a vaccination site or clinic. That’s compared with 25 percent and 19 percent for all parents, respectively.

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