The KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor is an ongoing research project tracking the public’s attitudes and experiences with COVID-19 vaccinations. Using a combination of surveys and qualitative research, this project tracks the dynamic nature of public opinion as vaccine development and distribution unfold, including vaccine confidence and acceptance, information needs, trusted messengers and messages, as well as the public’s experiences with vaccination.

Key Findings

  • In the midst of the latest surge of the omicron COVID-19 variant, the share of parents who say their child has gotten at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine increased between November and January. Six in ten parents of 12-17 year-olds now say their child has received at least one shot (61%, up from 49% in November), as do one-third of parents of 5-11 year-olds (33%, up from 16% in November). Three in ten parents of children under 5 say they’ll get their child vaccinated right away once a vaccine is approved for their age group, up somewhat from one in five in July.
  • One in five (21%) parents of vaccinated teens say their child has already received a COVID-19 booster, and around two-thirds (65%) say they will “definitely” or “probably get” one. Just one in seven parents of vaccinated 12-17 year-olds say their teen “probably” or “definitely won’t” get the booster (14%).
  • Half of parents report being worried about their child becoming seriously sick from the coronavirus, including substantially higher shares among parents who are Black or Hispanic and those with lower incomes.
  • Four in ten parents of school-age children report some type of disruption to their child’s in-person learning in the first month of the year, including needing to quarantine, schools shutting down in-person classes, or parents choosing to keep children home due to safety concerns. Most (63%) say their child’s school did not provide access to COVID-19 testing before returning to classes in January.

Parents’ Intentions Regarding COVID-19 Vaccines For Children

The latest KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor reports an uptick this month in the share of parents who says their child is or will be vaccinated for COVID-19, across child age groups.

After holding fairly steady for several months, the share of parents who say their 12-17 year-old has gotten at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine increased, from 49% in November to 61% in January. At the same time, the share of parents who say they want to “wait and see” before getting their teen vaccinated fell to a new low of 6%. One-quarter (23%) of parents still say they will “definitely not” get their 12-17 year-old vaccinated for COVID-19, while a further 4% say they will only get their teen vaccinated if they are required to do so for school.

The CDC recently expanded eligibility of COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech booster doses to those ages 12-17, and 21% of parents of vaccinated 12-17 year-olds report their teenager has already received the booster shot. Around two-thirds of parents say their vaccinated teenager will “definitely” or “probably get” their booster shot (65%), with a much small number saying they “probably” or “definitely won’t” get the booster (14%).

COVID-19 vaccine uptake also appears to have increased for younger children over the past two months, though remaining much lower than among teens. One-third of parents of 5-11 year-olds now say their child is vaccinated (33%), double the share of parents who said so in November (16%). The biggest change comes in the share who say they will “wait and see” before getting their child vaccinated, decreasing from 32% in November to 19% now. Another 13% say they’ll get their 5-11 year-old vaccinated right away, while 24% will “definitely not” get them vaccinated, and 9% will only do it if required.

Despite many parents being worried about their child getting sick from COVID-19, 79% of parents of unvaccinated children ages 5-17 say news of the Omicron variant doesn’t make a difference in the likelihood that they’ll get their child vaccinated. Around one in seven (14%) parents of unvaccinated kids say the news makes them “more likely” to get their child vaccinated and 6% say it makes them “less likely.”

While there is not yet a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use in children under the age of five, 31% of parents of children in this age range say they’ll get their child vaccinated right away when a vaccine  is authorized, up from 20% last July. Another 29% say they will “wait and see” before getting their child under 5 vaccinated, down from 40% in July. Around one in ten parents say they’ll vaccinate their child under five “only if required” (12%), while a quarter (26%) say they will “definitely not” vaccinate their young child.

Parents’ Concerns And Experiences As Children Returned To School

With children going back to school in January, many after travel and holiday gatherings amid the omicron surge, many parents report concerns about illness, exposures, and shutdowns.

Half of parents report being worried that their child will become seriously sick from the coronavirus, with 25% saying they are “very worried.” Despite the omicron surge, this level of worry is similar to the level of worry parents reported in October (when 24% said they were very worried and 21% somewhat worried). Significantly more parents who have a household income of less than $75,000 a year are worried about serious illness (65%) than those who earn $75,000 or more (37%). Similarly, parents who are Hispanic or Black are more likely than White parents to say they are worried about their child getting seriously ill  (70% vs. 39%). Echoing differing level of personal worries among adults by vaccination status, 57% of vaccinated parents are worried about their kid becoming seriously sick, compared to 32% of unvaccinated parents.

Many parents of school-aged children say their child has experienced some disruption in their schooling during January, including having to quarantine, having the school shut down or move to online learning, or parents choosing to keep their child home due to COVID-19 concerns.

Since returning to school in January, a quarter of parents (27%) report that their child has had to quarantine at home because they tested positive or were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Another one in five say their child’s school shut down in-person classes or switched to virtual learning because of COVID-19, and 14% say they’ve kept their child home from school because they were worried about their risk of getting COVID-19. Overall, 41% of parents say at least one of these disruptions has happened in January.

Notably, four times the share of parents who are Black or Hispanic (28%) say they’ve kept a child home from school because of concerns about their COVID-19 risk, compared to 7% of White parents.

With many adults across the U.S. reporting difficulty finding tests over the past month, access to COVID-19 testing is also an issue for parents and children. Notably, 39% of parents of school-age children say they tried to purchase an at-home test kit in the past month compared to 24% of adults without children. Around two-thirds of parents who tried to purchase an at-home testing kit had difficulty doing so (64%).

While three in ten parents of children who attend school say their child’s school provided access to in-person or at-home testing before returning to school in January, the majority (63%) say the school did not provide either before returning to school in January.

Methodology

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.