News Release

43% of Parents with Children Under 5 Newly Eligible for a COVID-19 Vaccine Say They Will “Definitely Not” Get Them Vaccinated

More Than Half See the Vaccine as a Greater Risk than the Virus for Their Young Children

Most Parents Open to Getting Their Young Child Vaccinated Haven’t Yet Spoken to Their Pediatrician

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, a new KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey finds

The survey – KFF’s first since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for use in children from 6 months through 4 years old in June – shows that just 7% of parents of children in that age range say they’ve already gotten them a vaccine.

Another 10% say they want to get them vaccinated as soon as possible, while others are less eager, including a quarter (27%) who want to “wait and see” how it works in other young children and one in eight (13%) who say they would only get their child vaccinated if it were required for school or childcare.

As with other age groups, the survey finds a big partisan divide in how parents of children from 6 months through 4 years old are approaching vaccination. A larger share of parents who are or lean Democratic (15%) say they’ve already gotten their newly eligible child vaccinated than parents who are or lean Republican (3%). Republican parents are three times as likely as Democratic parents to say they will “definitely not” get their child vaccinated (64% v. 21%).Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds (64%) of parents who are unvaccinated say they will “definitely not” get their newly eligible child vaccinated. Even among parents who are vaccinated themselves, about one in four (27%) say they will “definitely not” get their young child vaccinated.

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.

A narrow majority (53%) of parents with children under 5 eligible for the vaccine say it poses a greater risk to their child’s health than a COVID-19 infection. 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%). 

Fewer parents say they are concerned about economic and access issues. This includes more than four in ten Black parents (44%) who say they are concerned about taking time off work to get their child vaccinated or care for them if they experience side effects, and a similar share of Hispanic parents (45%) who say they are concerned about not being able to get their child the vaccinated at a place they trust. In addition, about a third of Hispanic parents also say they are concerned about having to pay out-of-pocket to get their child vaccinated (36%).

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.

The new Vaccine Monitor also provides updated data on people’s vaccination status and intentions in other age groups:

  • Children ages 5-11 became eligible for a vaccine in late October. Among parent of these children, 40% say their child has gotten vaccinated. A similar share (37%) say they will “definitely not” get their child a vaccine.
  • Among parents of adolescents ages 12-17, 57% say their child has been vaccinated, similar to the share reported earlier this year. About a quarter (28%) say they will definitely not get their adolescent vaccinated.
  • Most parents of vaccinated children over age 5 say their child has already gotten or are likely to get a recommended booster dose.
  • Three-quarters (76%) of adults say they have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a share that has held relatively steady since September. This includes around half of adults who say they’ve gotten fully vaccinated and received a COVID-19 booster dose (49%).
  • When those who are vaccinated but have not gotten a booster are asked about some reasons why, 57% say they feel they have enough protection from their initial vaccination or a prior infection, 52% say they just don’t want to get it, and 48% say they don’t think the boosters are effective, since some vaccinated people are still getting infected.

Designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at KFF, the Vaccine Monitor survey was conducted from July 7-17, 2022, online and by telephone among a nationally representative sample of 1,847 U.S. adults, in English and in Spanish. The survey included an oversample of 471 parents with a child under the age of 5. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for the full sample and plus or minus 8 percentage points for parents with a child under 5. For results based on other subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.

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.

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The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.