Half of U.S. Parents of Teens Got Their Child Vaccinated, But Uptake Slows

Nearly half of 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, but the initial rush to get teens immunized has stalled, a new survey of parents shows.

Only 1% of parents now plan to get their teen vaccinated as soon as possible; 13% said they’ll wait and see how vaccination works for others; and 30% said they won’t get their teen vaccinated.

The nationwide telephone and online survey of nearly 1,200 parents with a child under 18 was conducted Nov. 8 to 23, and the results appear in a new Kaiser Family Foundation report.

Children between 5 and 11 years of age became eligible for COVID-19 shots in the past month. Sixteen percent of their parents said their child had been vaccinated, and 13% said they planned to get the shot for the child right away. About one-third (32%) said they would see how the shots work for other children first and almost as many (29%) said their child would not be vaccinated.

The survey was conducted before the emergence of the highly contagious Omicron variant, which could change parents’ vaccine views, according to the report authors.

The survey revealed that most parents don’t feel they have enough information about the effectiveness (58%), side effects (63%) or safety (61%) of COVID-19 vaccines in children. In all, 52% of parents with teens and about 40% of those with 5- to 11-year-olds were confident that vaccines are safe for their children.

About 57% of parents of teens and 55% of those with younger kids said they believe a COVID-19 infection poses a greater risk than vaccination, while 39% and 41%, respectively, considered vaccination a bigger risk.

Unvaccinated parents were much more likely to believe that vaccines pose a greater risk to their teen (80%) or younger child (71%), the findings showed.

Hispanic parents were more likely (62%) to say their teen had been vaccinated than Black parents (48%) or white respondents (42%), but there were no significant racial or ethnic differences in their intentions to get younger kids vaccinated.

Hispanic parents and Black parents were more likely than white parents to express concerns about vaccine access. For example, among those with unvaccinated children, more Hispanic parents (47%) than Black parents (43%) or white parents (23%) expressed concern about missing work to take their kids to get the shot or care for them if they have side effects.

Fewer than half of respondents said they had talked to their child’s pediatrician about the COVID-19 vaccines. Sixteen percent of parents with teens and 15% of those with younger children said they had talked to their pediatrician, and he or she had not recommended vaccination.

Forty-nine percent of parents said their child’s school had provided information about how to get a vaccine, and 44% said their school had encouraged them to do so.

In all, two-thirds of parents oppose schools requiring all eligible students to get vaccinated; 32% said they support such a mandate.

The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for the full sample of parents, but differs for subgroups, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation news release.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about the science behind COVID-19 vaccines.

SOURCE: Kaiser Family Foundation, news release, Dec. 9, 2021