Most Children Won't Get New COVID-19 Vaccines, Parents Say: Poll

Most parents don't plan on taking their children to receive one of the new shots,
Most Children Won't Get New COVID-19 Vaccines, Parents Say: Poll
U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra, with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (center), receives one of the new COVID-19 vaccines at a CVS in Washington on Sept. 20, 2023. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

Most children will not receive one of the new COVID-19 vaccines, according to a new survey.

Under 40 percent of parents said they definitely or probably will take their children for one of the new shots, a KFF poll conducted from Sept. 6 to Sept. 13 found.

Just 13 percent of parents of children aged 12 to 17 or 6 months to 4 years said they will definitely have their children vaccinated, with 12 percent of parents of children aged 5 to 11 saying the same.

Far greater percentages—36 percent to 41 percent, depending on the age of the children—of parents said they definitely would not have their kids vaccinated.

About a quarter of respondents said they would probably not take their children to receive one of the new shots, while another quarter said they probably would.

The poll was conducted among 1,296 American adults online and over the phone, with participants receiving a $15 check or a gift card worth $5 or $10. The number of respondents who are parents was 416.

The margin of error among the total group was plus/minus four percentage points.

KFF used to be known as the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently cleared the new vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, despite virtually no clinical trial data being available. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) then recommended them for nearly all Americans.

KFF's poll showed that many parents keep their children up-to-date on recommended vaccines, making the resistance to COVID-19 vaccines unique.

Nine out of ten parents said they keep their children up-to-date, the same number as found in a July 2021 poll from KFF.

Still, 43 percent of parents said parents should be free to decide against having their children vaccinated, even if that creates health risks for others. Across parents and non-parents, Democrats were more likely to oppose that freedom, with 84 percent saying healthy children should be required to be vaccinated to attend public schools, compared to 63 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans.

Survey respondents said they trusted their health care provider the most for information on vaccines, followed by their child's pediatrician, pharmacists, the CDC, their local public health department, the FDA, their health insurer, and their child's school or daycare. Other possible sources of information, such as the media and literature, were not listed as an option.

Republicans were more likely not to trust health officials and agencies, including the CDC.

“The poll shows that most of the nation still trusts the CDC and the FDA on vaccines—but there is a partisan gap, and most Republicans don’t trust the nation’s regulatory and scientific agencies responsible for vaccine approval and guidance,” Drew Altman, KFF's president and CEO, said in a statement.

More Adults Say They'll Get Vaccinated

A higher percentage of adults say they'll definitely receive one of the new vaccines.

Twenty-three percent of respondents, including 34 percent of those 65 and older, say they'll definitely receive one of the new shots.

Democrats are far more likely to say they plan to receive one of the vaccines. Forty-two percent said they'll definitely receive one, compared to 21 percent of independents and 8 percent of Republicans. People who previous received a vaccine were also more likely to say they'll definitely or probably receive one, with 79 percent of the unvaccinated saying they definitely will not and another 15 percent saying they probably will not.

Earlier surveys have also shown similar trends.

According to surveys from August conducted by IPSOS KnowledgePanel and NORC AmeriSpeak Omnibus that have not been published but were shared with the CDC and presented during a recent meeting, 25 percent of adults say they'll definitely get a new vaccine. Another 17.6 percent said they probably would, 13.6 percent said they probably would not, 25.7 percent said they definitely will not, and the rest said they were not sure.

Combined, the surveys covered 4,299 people.

Bivalent vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer were introduced in the fall of 2022 to try to address waning effectiveness. The bivalent vaccines were available until this month, when they were replaced by the new vaccines.

Just 20.5 percent of adults ended up receiving a bivalent vaccine, according to the most recent data from the CDC, current through May 10. That was higher than just 4.6 percent of children.

Earlier surveys from the same companies from June indicated that most of the demand for the new vaccines will come from the vaccinated.

Among 3,248 vaccinated respondents, nearly half said they received a bivalent or definitely would. Another quarter said they probably would or were unsure, and 28 percent who said they probably or definitely would not. Among 783 unvaccinated respondents, 88 percent said they probably or definitely would not go get a bivalent.

Top concerns in those and other surveys about COVID-19 vaccines include being worried about unknown side effects, known side effects such as heart inflammation, and not trusting the government and pharmaceutical firms.

Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine inventor who advises the FDA on vaccines, said during a recent video that heart inflammation and a related condition, or myocarditis and pericarditis, may last for years.

"We certainly were surprised by myocarditis and pericarditis, and we'll see whether or not over time, when we're five years into this, 10 years into this, 15 years into this, whether there's any evidence of residual myocardial disease," he said.

Some patients with the inflammation have recovered over time but others still suffer symptoms years later.