It’s back-to-school time in much of the United States. In addition to purchasing school supplies, parents are also scheduling physicals, including all the needed vaccinations to start kindergarten and grade school.
However, most parents of young children newly eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine are reluctant to get them vaccinated, including 43% who say they will “definitely not” do so, according to a KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey. The survey, which was conducted after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized COVID-19 vaccines for use in children from 6 months through 4 years old in June 2022, showed that just 7% of parents said they’ve already gotten their young children vaccinated as of July. Another 10% said they want to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible, while others said they were less eager, including a quarter (27%) who want to “wait and see” how it works in other young children and 1 in 8 (13%) who say they would only get their child vaccinated if it were required for school or childcare.
“The beginning of the school year offers the opportunity for nurse practitioners (NPs), PAs, and physicians to discuss COVID vaccines with parents,” said Mary Koslap-Petraco, DNP, PPCNP-BC, CPNP, FAANP, clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook University School of Nursing in Stony Brook, New York. For those parents who are hesitating, Dr Koslap-Petraco encourages health care providers to approach them with the utmost kindness.
“Providers need to bring up COVID-19 immunizations with parents and caregivers. We need to ask parents what questions they have and then address those questions in a kind caring manner while acknowledging the parents’ concerns to keep their children safe,” she told Clinical Advisor.
Many young children who have tested positive for COVID-19 have had mild cases and those experiences may be shaping some parents’ views about the benefits and risks of vaccination, according to KFF.
A narrow majority (53%) of parents with children younger than 5 years say the vaccine poses a greater risk to their child’s health than COVID-19 infection, according to KFF. That share rises to two-thirds (67%) among parents whose young child previously tested positive for COVID-19.
Overall, “large majorities of parents with unvaccinated children in this age range say they are concerned that their child might experience serious side effects from the vaccine (81%), that not enough is known about the vaccine’s long-term effects in children (81%), and that the vaccine will not protect their child from getting sick from the virus (70%),” said KFF.
Outreach to Parents
Most parents (70%) of these young children say they haven’t spoken to their pediatrician or another health care provider about getting the vaccine for their child, suggesting an opportunity for further education about its benefits that could boost vaccination rates slowly over time.
Among parents who are open to getting their young child vaccinated, most (70%) say they will wait until their child’s regular check-up to talk to their pediatrician while a quarter (27%) say they will make a specific appointment, according to KFF.
“Parents have indicated overwhelmingly that they have not spoken to their child’s health care provider about the vaccine; so let’s do it,” Dr Koslap-Petraco said. Among the several strategies NPs and PAs can use to contact parents to remind them that all children should have a physical before the start of a new school year, “text messages have been shown to be an effective method to remind parents to make appointments for their children,” she said. “Infants should be coming in for regular well-baby checks so we need to use those opportunities to have discussions with parents about COVID-19 vaccines.”
Clinicians need to have late and early appointments to accommodate parents who are working and cannot take time off to bring their children in for visits. “We also need to reassure parents that most children experience mild symptoms after vaccination if they get anything at all and that symptoms are short-lived,” Dr Koslap-Petraco said. “The bottom line is we need to do all we can to get these parents into our offices so we can have those COVID-19 vaccine discussions.”
1. Lopes L, Hamel L, Sparks G, Montero A, Presiado M, Brodie M. KFF COVID-19 Monitor: July 2022. Published July 26, 2022. Accessed July 28, 2022. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/poll-finding/kff-covid-19-vaccine-monitor-july-2022
2. 43% of parents with children under 5 newly eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine say they will “definitely not” get them vaccinated. KFF. Newsroom. Published July 26, 2022. Accessed July 28, 2022. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/press-release/43-of-parents-with-children-under-5-newly-eligible-for-a-covid-19-vaccine-say-they-will-definitely-not-get-them-vaccinated/