Even as the delta variant of COVID-19 sweeps the globe, leaving those who remain unvaccinated vulnerable, vaccination among adults and teenagers in the United States is stalling, giving rise to concerns over whether parents will vaccinate their young children once vaccines are approved for those under 12 years of age.
In one of the first studies measuring COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among parents in the U.S. and the first in New York City, investigators from the CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health (ISPH) and the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH) conducted a community-based online survey of parents of children under 12 years. Findings from the surveys were published in the Journal of Pediatrics (U.S.) and Vaccine (NYC).
The survey was conducted in a sample of 2,074 U.S. and 1,119 NYC parents in March and April of 2021 as vaccine roll-out among adults was expanding. Among all U.S. parents surveyed, only 49 percent reported planning to vaccinate their youngest child when a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children, while 26 percent of parents said they were unsure and 25 percent said they will not vaccinate their child.
Asian parents were most likely to report planning to vaccinate children in the U.S. survey while parents with less than a college education and income less than $25,000 were most likely to be vaccine hesitant. In contrast, a higher proportion of parents in NYC (62 percent) reported planning to vaccinate their youngest child against COVID-19, while 15 percent were unsure and 23 percent did not plan to vaccinate. Also in NYC, non-Hispanic Black parents were less likely to report plans to vaccinate their children for COVID-19 compared to other race/ethnicity groups.
In both surveys, female parents were less likely to report plans to vaccinate their children. Parents who did not plan to vaccinate their youngest child selected concerns about safety as their main reason for vaccine hesitancy, and a quarter of parents also said they didn’t think children were at risk for COVID-19 infection and did not need vaccination.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 4 million U.S. children have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and over 300 have died. In addition, children infected with COVID-19, even those with mild symptoms, may experience long COVID, similar to adults, with persistent pain and fatigue. When available, vaccines will be an important tool for protecting the health of children and controlling the epidemic.
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