WebMD Survey: Many Parents Back Kid, Teacher COVID Shots

March 2, 2021 — A majority of parents of teens and preteens say they plan to vaccinate their kids against COVID-19 within a year of the shots being authorized for use in children. But parents of younger age groups were less certain about their vaccination plans.

Parents also expressed overwhelming support for vaccinating teachers. Seventy-seven percent said teachers should be eligible for COVID vaccines right away.

Those findings come from a new survey of more than 1,000 U.S. WebMD readers who have children under the age of 16 living at home.

Among parents with children between the ages of 12 and 16:

  • 53% said they would have their children vaccinated within a year of a shot being approved.
  • 24% said they didn’t know what they would do.
  • 18% said they definitely wouldn’t get their teens inoculated against COVID.

Those percentages shifted slightly among parents of younger children.

Among parents with children between the ages of 5 and 12:

  • 47% said they’d have their children vaccinated against COVID within a year.
  • 26% said they didn’t know what they would do.
  • 22% said they wouldn’t consider it for their kids.

Among parents with children under the age of 5:

  • Just 41% said they’d have their kids vaccinated against COVID within a year.
  • 27% were undecided.
  • 22% said they wouldn’t get their young children vaccinated.

Among those who said they wouldn’t get their children vaccinated, nearly three-quarters said the studies are being rushed, and nearly 60% said they were concerned about safety and side effects of the vaccines in children.

There’s “not enough long term information about this new type of vaccine,” one reader responded. “I don’t trust it,” said another. Others cited personal beliefs and religious reasons.

Vaccines are normally tested in healthy adults first. After proving safe for this population, tests are expanded to more vulnerable groups, like children and pregnant women. Studies testing the COVID vaccines in children are now underway. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said that if the vaccines prove to be safe and effective, children might be eligible for vaccination as early as September.

Though children don’t seem to be the main drivers of COVID spread, contact tracing studies show they can and do infect others.

A small percentage of children, especially those with health conditions, can become very ill with COVID. Even those with mild infections are at risk for a serious post-viral complication called MIS-C, for multisystem inflammatory syndrome-children.

“Even though kids rarely become seriously ill with COVID, they still need to be part of a vaccination strategy,” says John Whyte, MD, chief medical officer of WebMD.

More than 60% of parents who haven’t been vaccinated said they’d get the vaccine for themselves within a year of becoming eligible for it. About 20% said they wouldn’t get the vaccine, while 10% said they felt unsure about it.

Experts believe that vaccinating a high percentage of our population, somewhere between 66% and 80%, will keep the virus from spreading so easily from person to person, effectively ending the pandemic. That high level of immunity is referred to as community protection or herd immunity.

A survey done in October and November of 2020 from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, of 18,000 mothers and pregnant women around the world, found that most would vaccinate their children. Overall, 52% of pregnant women and 73% of non-pregnant women said they would receive such a vaccine, and 69% of all women surveyed said they would vaccinate their children. Those numbers varied considerably by country. Vaccine acceptance by mothers for themselves and their children was highest in India, the Philippines, and Latin America; it was lowest in the U.S. and Russia.

Survey Methodology

WebMD’s survey was completed by 1,048 people who have children younger than 16 living at least part-time at home. Data was collected Feb. 18-23, 2021, onsite via an intercept survey. The weighting scheme was developed to represent the WebMD online population based on age, gender, race, and ethnicity, according to Comscore data. The margin of error was +/- 3.03% for 50% statistics at the 95% confidence level for the entire sample. Statistics for subgroups of the sample have larger margins of error.

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