If parents don’t want to vaccinate their children against COVID-19, will the possibility of a college scholarship change their mind?
Starting May 26, every Wednesday, the state will randomly draw a 12-17-year-old to win a scholarship for five weeks. The award will include tuition, room and board, and books to any state school in Ohio. An electronic portal will open to register on May 18.
Following federal approval, children ages 12 to 15 began receiving their first dose of Pfizer vaccinations in Ohio on Thursday.
“Parents are vaccine-hesitant for many reasons — there is no simple answer,” said Gretchen Chapman, a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies judgment and decisions in health.
Chapman said along with the safety worries of their children, parents can also face barriers to vaccination such as easy access, transportation, taking days off from work to care for a child sick with side effects, and more.
“There are randomized experiments in the literature showing that monetary incentives do increase vaccination rates,” said Chapman. “So I’d predict it will have a small effect (although we’ll never know for sure because there no control group in Ohio).”
“Certainly money talks,” said Eileen Anderson-Fye, director of Education, Bioethics and Medical Humanities, at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine. As a medical and psychological anthropologist, she studies how adolescents and young adults adapt to changes in their environments in ways that both advance and harm their well-being.
As a parent of three daughters herself, Anderson-Fye said while she can understand some parent’s hesitancy, it was a no-brainer for her.
“I do a lot of international travel for my work in global health, in addition, to being very active in the community,” Anderson-Fye said. “So for me, I wanted to be vaccinated as soon as I could be.”
She noted while financial incentives for education could absolutely have an impact, adolescents themselves may still be ambivalent.
“One of the complications, when you’re dealing with adolescents who are going through so much developmental change and coming into their own, is much different than taking your baby to be vaccinated, who has no choice,” said Anderson-Fye.
Anderson-Fye said the micro-culture in a student’s particular school or environment could profoundly affect adolescents’ thinking.
“At the end of the day, one of the things that I’m seeing for adolescents that is so important, as with anything else, what their peers think matters a lot,” said Anderson-Fye.
Dr. Shelly Senders of Senders Pediatrics supports any initiative to get teens and preteens vaccinated so that they can go to school safely.
“The pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of children and adolescents, and the governor’s scholarship offer is a great carrot to encourage fence-sitters to get vaccinated,” Snyder said.
But he said factual information from trusted sources is more important in encouraging families to get vaccinated.
“We have found, however, that most politics are local,” he said. “Glitzy initiatives are fine but in most situations are not necessary. We have found that by providing thoughtful and evidence-based guidance in the context of a patient-provider relationship, most families are willing to vaccinate their children against COVID-19.”
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