A new national poll conducted after COVID-19 vaccines were approved last month for children as young as 6 months old shows an increasing number of parents are saying, “No way.”
More than 4 in 10 parents — 43% — who have children 6 months to 4 years old said they are “definitely not” getting them vaccinated against the deadly virus, according to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation poll that regularly checks in on how Americans are feeling about COVID-19 issues.
Just 17% of parents had already vaccinated their young children or intended to right away, while 27% wanted to wait and see before deciding and 13% will only get their children the shots if required. Over the past year, the number of parents opposed to vaccinating their infants and toddlers fluctuated between 26% and 35%.
The most, 19%, said their main reason is they believe the vaccine is too new, and there hasn’t been enough testing or research, while 14% were worried about side effects and 13% had safety concerns. Another 11% said it wasn’t needed or that they weren’t worried about COVID-19 and 7% thought their children were too young.
Other reasons were wanting to wait and see, thinking the vaccine doesn’t work or that their children already had COVID-19. The poll also found a stark partisan divide among parents who don’t want their children to get the shots, with 64% of Republican or Republican-leaning parents opposed compared to 21% of Democratic parents.
In Utah, just over 7,500 children 6 months to 4 years old have gotten at least one scaled-down dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine so far, less than 7% of the eligible population, according to the Utah Department of Health and Human Services’ coronavirus website.
Health experts in the state have long warned against the risks to children from COVID-19, but at least initially, interest in the shots for infants and toddlers — despite what’s been called a “frustrating wait” for federal approval — has fallen short of what was seen in Utah when 5-11 year olds became eligible for the vaccine last fall.
“Children have not been exempt from this pandemic,” Dr. Leisha Nolen, a pediatrician and the Utah state epidemiologist, warned after the shots were approved in June. She said the vaccine is safe for young children and can help keep them from getting sick or from suffering long-term effects from COVID-19.
She said last winter’s surge driven by the original omicron variant resulted in hospitalization for some of the state’s youngest children, and a quarter of them ended up in intensive care. The virus, Nolen said, has killed more children under 5 than would die from the flu during two normal flu seasons.
“I think we can all agree, this is tragic,” the doctor said then. “We need to help keep kids out of the hospital and now we can through vaccination.”