As the delta variant surges among children and presents challenges for the new school year, more than 50% of parents of children ages 12-17 are still opposed to their children getting the Covid-19 vaccine or plan to “wait and see,” a new Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll found, with Republicans and younger parents among the most likely to be against their kid getting the shot.
The KFF poll, conducted July 15 – August 2 among 1,259 U.S. parents, found 20% of parents of 12- to 17-year-olds will “definitely not” get their child vaccinated, 9% will only have them get it if the school requires the vaccine and 23% plan to “wait and see,” while 41% of parents say their children are vaccinated and 6% plan to get their child the shot as soon as possible.
The group most opposed to getting their child the vaccine are parents who are unvaccinated themselves, with 69% saying their kid will “definitely not” get the shot or will only get it if required and 22% planning to wait and see (versus 9% of vaccinated parents opposed to the shot and 23% planning to wait and see).
Republican parents were the next largest demographic to refuse the vaccine for their child, with 48% against the shot or opposed unless it’s required, along with parents ages 18-39 (39% say definitely not or only if required), without a college degree (33%) and with annual household incomes of either under $40,000 or between $40,000 and $89,999 (both 34%).
Black parents were slightly more likely to be opposed to their child’s vaccination than white parents—34% versus 31%—but white parents were more likely to say their child would “definitely not” get the shot (24% versus 19% of Black parents) while more Black parents would only have them get it if required (15% versus 7% of white parents).
The groups least resistant to getting their children vaccinated are Democrats (13% say definitely not or only if required), Independents (18%), Hispanic parents (22%), those with a college degree (22%), parents ages 40 and older (23%) and those with an annual household income of over $90,000 (23%).
Parents’ major reasons for not yet getting their children vaccinated include not enough information about the long-term effects of vaccination on children (88%), fears about side effects (79%) and fears the vaccine may impact their child’s fertility (73%)—which is unsubstantiated by evidence—and Black and Hispanic parents were more likely to have concerns about vaccine access issues like taking time off work or getting their child’s shot at a place they trust.
34%. That’s the percentage of parents of unvaccinated 12- to 17-year-olds who believe the Covid-19 vaccine is a “bigger risk” to their child’s health than Covid-19 itself. That includes 55% of Republicans, 73% of unvaccinated parents and 91% of those who say they’ll definitely not get their child vaccinated.
What To Watch For
The KFF poll suggested vaccine hesitancy will also be an issue once Covid-19 vaccines are approved for children younger than 12, which could come by late fall or early winter. The KFF poll found only 26% of parents of children between the ages of five and 11 and 20% of parents to kids under five would get them vaccinated right away, while 40% of both parent groups would wait and see. Thirty percent of under-five parents said they would definitely not get their child vaccinated and 10% said they’d only do it if required, versus 25% and 9% of five- to 11-year-old parents.
Hesitancy against Covid-19 vaccines doesn’t extend to child vaccinations overall, with 90% of KFF respondents saying they keep their child up-to-date with other vaccines like the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Of those parents who get their child other vaccines, only 43% said their child was vaccinated against Covid-19. There was a correlation between the Covid-19 and flu vaccines, with 57% of parents of kids who get a flu shot saying their child has already received the Covid-19 vaccine versus 25% of parents whose children do not get a flu shot.
Vaccine hesitancy has been a significant issue in the U.S., with similar demographics like Republicans and younger adults among the least likely to get the shot. Vaccine rates among teenagers have remained lower than the U.S. population overall, with only 43% of 12- to 15-year-olds and 52.8% of 16- and 17-year-olds receiving at least a first dose as compared with 58.9% of the total population and 71.2% of adults. Covid-19 vaccination for children and teens has become a bigger issue as the delta variant has spurred a new nationwide surge of Covid-19 that’s left children who are ineligible for vaccination particularly vulnerable, and sparked new controversy around Covid-19 protocols in schools like mask mandates and whether students or teachers should be required to get the vaccine. The KFF poll found 66% of respondents supported mask mandates in schools for unvaccinated students and teachers—even as some states ban school districts from imposing them—but only 42% of parents of 12- to 17-year-olds believed their school should have a student vaccine mandate, in line with other recent polling.
KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: Parents and the Pandemic (Kaiser Family Foundation)