News Release

Most Parents Don’t Want Their Schools to Require COVID-19 Vaccination, But Most Favor Requiring Masks for Unvaccinated Children and Staff

Nearly Half of Parents of Children Ages 12-17 Say Their Child is Already Vaccinated or Will Get a Shot As Soon As Possible; Republican Parents Are More Resistant

Worries about Long-Term and Serious Side Effects are Parents’ Top Concern; Hispanic and Black Parents Are More Likely than White Parents to Cite Access and Cost Issues

As schools around the country prepare to reopen, a majority of parents of school-age children say they do not want their children’s schools to require students to get a COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend in person classes, the latest KFF Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor report finds.

This includes most (58%) parents of adolescent students, ages 12-17, who are already eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine under an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Fewer (42%) of these parents say they want their schools to mandate vaccination.

Not surprisingly, parents of adolescent children who have already gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine are far more supportive of schools requiring them than parents of similarly aged unvaccinated children. Three-quarters (75%) of parents of vaccinated children want their schools to require it, while a large majority (83%) of parents of unvaccinated children oppose it.

Among all parents of school-age children, a narrow majority (54%) say schools should not require students get a COVID-19 vaccine even if the FDA were to grant full approval for school-age children to receive them. Fewer (45%) parents say schools should require a COVID-19 vaccine if it gets full FDA approval.

On both questions, there are large partisan divisions, with about two-thirds of Democratic parents favoring such mandates and more than three-quarters of Republican parents opposing them. Majorities of White and Black parents oppose such requirements, while Hispanic parents are more evenly divided (51% should, 47% should not).

Most Parents Want Their Schools to Require Masks for Unvaccinated Students and Staff

Overall parents are more supportive of mask requirements than vaccines. More than 6 in 10 (63%) parents of school-age children say their child’s school should require unvaccinated students and staff to wear masks in school, while 36% say they should not.

“Despite controversy around the country about masks in schools, most parents want their school to require masks of unvaccinated students and staff,” KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said. “At the same time, most parents don’t want their schools to require their kids get a COVID-19 vaccine despite their effectiveness in combatting COVID-19.”

Majorities of parents who identify as Democrats (88%) and independents (66%) say their child’s school should require masks, while most Republican parents (69%) say they should not. In addition, larger shares of Black parents (83%) and Hispanic parents (76%) compared to White parents (54%) support a mask requirement at their child’s school.

Among parents of adolescents enrolled in school for the coming year, about 4 in 10 say that the school has both provided them with information about how to get a COVID-19 vaccine for their child (42%) and encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated (40%).

Parents whose schools did either of these things are about twice as likely as parents whose school did not to say their child received a COVID-19 vaccine. A difference persists even after controlling for other demographic factors, suggesting that schools could play a role in increasing vaccine uptake in this group.

Nearly Half of Parents of Children Ages 12-17 Say Their Eligible Children are Already Vaccinated or Will Get a Shot Soon

Among parents of children ages 12-17 who are already eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, nearly half say their child has already been vaccinated (41%, up from 34% in June) or will get the vaccine right away (6%).

Nearly a quarter (23%) say they want to “wait and see” how the vaccine works for others before getting their eligible child vaccinated, and another 9% say they would get their child a shot “only if their school requires it.” One in five (20%) say that their child will “definitely not” get vaccinated.

Not surprisingly, parents’ vaccination intentions for their children are largely correlated with their own vaccination status. Among parents who have gotten vaccinated themselves, 60% say their 12-17 year-old is vaccinated, compared to just 4% of unvaccinated parents.

Among parents of children ages 5-11, who are not yet eligible to receive any COVID-19 vaccine, a quarter (26%) say they will vaccinate their child “right away” once a vaccine is authorized for children in their age group. One in five (20%) parents of children younger than 5 say the same. Four in 10 (40%) parents of children in each age group say they “wait and see” once their child becomes eligible before getting them vaccinated.

Long-Term and Serious Side Effects are Parents’ Top Vaccine Concern 

A large majority (88%) of parents of children ages 12-17 who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that not enough is known about its long-term effects in children. Nearly as many (79%) say that they are concerned that their child might experience serious side effects.

In addition, nearly three-quarters (73%) say they are concerned that the vaccine may negatively impact their child’s fertility, even though the CDC says that there is “no evidence that any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccine, causes fertility problems.”

Smaller shres of parents of unvaccinated adolescents generally express concerns over access and financial issues related to the vaccine. For example, about a third (32%) are concerned about taking time off work to get their child vaccinated and recover from side effects, and a quarter (24%) are concerned that they won’t be able to get their child vaccinated at a place they trust.

Hispanic and Black parents are more likely than White parents to report concerns about vaccine access and cost. For instance, half (49%) of Hispanic and 28% of Black parents of unvaccinated adolescents are concerned about not being able to get their child vaccinated at a trusted place, while just 16% of White parents express such worries.

Hispanic (34%) and Black (30%) parents of unvaccinated adolescents are roughly three times as likely as White parents (11%) to express concerns they will have to pay out-of-pocket to get their child vaccinated – even though the vaccines should be available at no cost to the individual.

Among parents who are employed, small shares say their employer offers paid time off to take their children to get vaccinated (21%) or to stay home with their child while they recover from any side effects (24%), though large shares say they aren’t sure.

Even smaller shares of parents with lower household incomes (less than $40,000 annually) say their employer provides paid time off to get their child vaccinated (8%) or to care for them while they recover from side effects (14%).

Among working parents of unvaccinated adolescents, a quarter (25%) say they would be more likely to get their child vaccinated if their employer gave them paid time off.

Pediatricians are Parents’ Most-Trusted Source for COVID-19 Vaccine Information

The report finds more than three-quarters (78%) of parents say they trust their child’s pediatrician a “great deal” or “fair amount” to provide reliable information about COVID-19 vaccinations for kids.

Majorities also say they trust the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (66%) and their local public health department (62%) to provide such information. Among those with insurance, most trust their health insurer (58%), and a narrow majority of those who are employed trust their employer (53%). Fewer trust their child’s school or day care (44%) or other parents (38%).

While most parents trust pediatricians’ vaccine information, just 30% of parents overall – and 35% of parents of children ages 12-17 – say they spoke to their pediatrician about it. Among parents of adolescents eligible for a vaccine who did talk to their pediatrician about it, a large majority (72%) say the pediatrician recommended their child get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at KFF, the KFF Vaccine Monitor: Parents and the Pandemic was conducted from July 15-August 2 among a nationally representative probability-based sample of 1,259 parents with a child under age 18 in their household. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish online (908) and via telephone (351). The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for the full sample and plus or minus 5 percentage points for parents of children ages 12-17. For results based on 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.