Parent vs. child vaccination against COVID-19:

A parent survey

 

Author: Madeleine Waser

06.05.2021

 

As part of my Master Thesis project, I am currently investigating vaccination intentions in parents. I collected data from 333 parents of children attending 5th grade in Tyrol, which were contacted via email through the schools’ principals who voluntarily forwarded the survey link. The link was initially forwarded to all 225 eligible schools in Tyrol. Additionally, the Parent Association of Tyrol (Landeselternverband Tirol) forwarded the survey link to its members. Considering a total amount of about 6,900 5th graders (1), the response rate is approximately 4.8%. The age of the respondents ranges from 28 to 62 years, the mean age is 43. 93% of the respondents are female. 37% of the sample holds a university degree.

Among these parents, 268 report that they have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 (23%) or will get vaccinated (57%). Some 20% have reported to not get vaccinated. While a clear majority of parents are willing to get vaccinated themselves, only 59% reported to be willing to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19. All parents who indicated to reject the vaccine also intend to not vaccinate their children. Out of all COVID-19 vaccine-accepting parents however, 27% stated to not be willing to vaccinate their children.

How can we explain this hesitancy to vaccinate children? A potential explanation could be the perception of children being a low-risk group for severe COVID-19 infections, causing the assumption that vaccinating is not vital as infections in children generally take mild or asymptomatic courses (2). Asymptomatic infections may however cause the virus to unwittingly spread, which is why protection among children is essential in achieving herd immunity and protecting more vulnerable populations – especially against the backdrop of faster-spreading variants emerging (3). Another reason for concern among parents seems to be the perceived rush to approve vaccines for political reasons - according to a multi-country study investigating COVID-19 vaccine acceptance in pregnant women and mothers, this constitutes a major concern causing doubts about vaccine safety (4). This sentiment may also be fueled by the strong media attention that the novel COVID-19 vaccines receive. Hence, an additional explanation for vaccine hesitancy may be the strong or overemphasized press coverage around COVID-19 vaccines and their potential side effects, as we have seen with the reporting of rare blood clots occurring after AstraZeneca injection. Hence, the abundance of information and misinformation around the novel vaccines online might cause uncertainty about vaccine safety and effectiveness, especially in relation to children (4). 

As the EMA is reviewing Pfizer-BioNTech’s request for vaccine approval for children, transparent communication of vaccine safety is vital once approval is granted. As vaccine-rejecting parents seem to have a strong aversion against the COVID-19 vaccine for themselves and their children, getting through to this population might be challenging. Parents who reported accepting the vaccine for themselves and rejecting the vaccine for their children might however be subject to persuasion of COVID-19 vaccine acceptance for their children as well.

 

2021 05 06 Abbildung Impfunwillige vs. impfwillige Eltern

 

Graph (A) shows the number of parents having already received or willing to receive COVID-19 vaccination versus the number of parents rejecting COVID-19 vaccination. Graph (B) shows parental intentions in either vaccinating or not vaccinating their child against COVID-19. Graph (C) visualizes intended child vaccination across parents who have been or will get vaccinated and those who reject vaccination (as percentages).

 

References:

(1) Land Tirol. (2020). Zahlen zum Schuljahr 2020/21. Retrieved from https://bildung-tirol.gv.at/sites/default/files/2020-10/zahlen_zum_schuljahr_2020-21.pdf

(2) Montalti, M., Rallo, F., Guaraldi, F., Bartoli, L., Po, G., Stillo, M., Perrone, P., Squillace, L., Dallolio, L., Pandolfi, P., Resi, D., Fantini, M. P., Reno, C., & Gori, D. (2021). Would Parents Get Their Children Vaccinated Against SARS-CoV-2? Rate and Predictors of Vaccine Hesitancy According to a Survey over 5000 Families from Bologna, Italy. Vaccines. https://doi.org/10.3390/vaccines9040366

(3) Callaway, E. (2021). COVID vaccines and kids: five questions as trials begin. Nature. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-01061-4

(4) Skjefte, M., Ngirbabul, M., Akeju, O., Escudero, D., Hernandez-Diaz, S., Wyszynski, D. F., & Wu, J. W. (2021). COVID-19 vaccine acceptance among pregnant women and mothers of young children: results of a survey in 16 countries. European Journal of Epidemiology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-021-00728-6

 

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