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Study explores parents’ reluctance to flu, COVID vaccines for children

Apr. 7, 2022, 9:42 AM


by Jessica Pasley

Parents who are reluctant to vaccinate their children against the flu are more than five times as likely to decline the COVID-19 vaccine for their children, according to a study published in Clinical Pediatrics.

A team at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt reported its findings from a 2020 survey focused on the acceptance of COVID-19 and flu vaccinations in Tennessee. Data showed the strongest predictor of COVID-19 vaccine acceptance was the caregiver’s willingness to allow their children to receive the flu vaccine.

Mia Letterie

Vaccine hesitancy continues to be an issue, said Mia Letterie, the lead author of the paper and associate program manager for the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy.

The statewide survey was developed to capture information on a variety of topics about sociodemographic characteristics of families, overall health, impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families and children and overall vaccine acceptance, reads the study.

“We included additional questions to more fully evaluate perception and acceptance of COVID-19 and influenza vaccines,” said Letterie. “We assumed where people live, education, race and other factors would have a higher impact on parental acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines in children, but the flu vaccine was a primary determinant,” said Letterie.

“This highlights the need for public health organizations to focus on maximizing vaccine uptake for children who have not been getting a flu vaccine,” she said. “We know these vaccines are safe and that they work to prevent severe infection. It is essential that we communicate this to help increase COVID vaccination rates in children.”

Elizabeth Williams, MD

A total of 1,509 participants completed the survey administered between Oct. 2 and Nov. 9, 2020, prior to the authorization of COVID-19 vaccines.

The findings were in sync with data showing lower rates of vaccine acceptance among racial minority groups and females.

“What I thought was interesting is how gender played a role in our findings,” said Elizabeth Williams, MD, assistant professor of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital and an investigator on the study team.

“Females were less accepting of the COVID vaccine than male parents, which was surprising. We can’t explain the gender findings, but it tells us that additional studies are warranted.”

Researchers hope that the study will help to identify a target area to increase overall acceptance of the COVID vaccine in children, therefore addressing COVID vaccine hesitancy.

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