As the country approaches 200 million administered COVID-19 vaccinations, it appears that protection–and normalcy–might return. However, a new ParentsTogether survey has revealed that there is a fair amount of hesitancy among parents to give the COVID vaccine to their children once it’s made available.
ParentsTogether, a large-scale, national parents organization, surveyed 971 members between March 7-12, 2021. It revealed that even parents who plan to vaccinate themselves are 17% less likely to vaccinate their children once the shots are approved. Moreover, the hesitancy was particularly high among Black and Latino parents.
“We were really struck by how uncertain parents are right now about whether to vaccinate their children; that’s especially true among Black and Latino parents who are 70% more likely to say that they are unsure about giving their children the COVID vaccine than white parents,” the organization tells Parentology.
The ParentsTogether survey results provided a list of reasons parents might be hesitant, including:
- Concerns about short-term side effects
- Concerns about unknown long-term side-effects
- The speed of the vaccine’s development
- Lack of opportunity for long-term studies / wanting to wait for more data
Alabama parent Kim Hagood is one of the parents watching and waiting on the child vaccine front. What would it take for her to vaccinate her child?
“Research and more information on vaccinations for children under 12,” she tells Parentology. And Hagood is no COIVD-denier; she knows several people who died and knows long haulers struggling daily with the aftermath of the disease. She’s scheduled to receive her Johnson & Johnson shot next week.
Race and Income Play a Role
Parents from lower income households were more hesitant, but even when the survey controlled for income level, Black parents were still the most vaccine-shy when it came to their kids. There are some compelling historical reasons for this caution.
“While the data in our survey didn’t specifically indicate the underlying causes of hesitancy among Black parents to vaccinate their children, there is a lot of research that connects the historical mistreatment of communities of color by the medical establishment to higher levels of mistrust in today’s medical systems, and by extension, this vaccine,” ParentsTogether explains. “At a time when the maternal mortality rate for Black mothers, still, is estimated to be at least three times that of white mothers, we have to bring deep respect, perspective, and understanding to any effort that tries to build the trust of Black parents in the medical establishment that created the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Another factor is location: Rural parents are holding back, too. The survey surmises that these communities have a more widespread mistrust of both government and science, making the messaging more complicated.
“Hesitancy in rural communities has been highlighted in other research based on a variety of reasons. Truly the best way to engage with any community where vaccine hesitancy is prevalent is to listen, understand, and engage people with non-judgment, and have individuals from those communities as some of the key people communicating about the safety and importance of getting vaccinated to keep families everywhere safe,” ParentsTogether notes.
School Reopenings Might Push the Issue
As schools reopen nationwide, there will probably be a push for a pre-return to school vaccination. When it comes to this issue, parents are all over the map and experts anticipate this issue has the potential to create a lot of turmoil at the district level. ParentsTogether notes that some parents are more comfortable sending their children back to school once children are vaccinated, while other parents may only choose to vaccinate their children if the school requires it. Some may simply pull their children out of that school altogether.
While Hagood is waiting on the shot for her children, she’s not that concerned about the schools in her area forcing the issue.
“I live in Alabama. They don’t believe in enforcing masks, much less vaccines,” Hagood says. “Personally I’m concerned for the upcoming, not current, school year due to lack of people being safe and getting vaccinated. People are already slipping from caution due to the fact there is a vaccine. They ignore our numbers of cases and death count.”
In the end, kids will be vaccinated; it’s just a question of how to educate and reassure parents that it’s safe.
“Different messages are likely to resonate in different communities. But what we know will be essential for any vaccine promotion effort is deep respect for parents; they all want to do what’s best for their children, and we’re all dealing with a pandemic for the first time. The good news is, the vaccine offers a path forward, and we have to invite parents to join us on that path,” says ParentsTogether.