More than a year after COVID-19 vaccines were made widely available to adults in the U.S., the FDA recently granted emergency authorization to both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for use in children ages 6 months and up. Previous KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor data indicated that about one in five parents of children under the age of 5 were eager to get their child vaccinated, saying they would do so “right away” once it was available for that age group. The latest COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor finds that 17% of parents of children ages 6 months through 4 years old say their child has gotten vaccinated for COVID-19 or say that they will get them vaccinated “right away.” About one in four parents (27%) say they want to wait and see how the vaccine is working for other young children before getting their child vaccinated while about one in eight (13%) say they will only get their child vaccinated if they are required to do so for school or childcare. Notably, more than four in ten parents (43%) say they will “definitely not” get their eligible child under 5 years old vaccinated for COVID-19.
Given the polarized response to the COVID-19 vaccines and the partisan gaps in vaccinations present among adults, it is unsurprising that there are stark partisan gaps in parents’ intentions to vaccinate their young children. About one in seven (15%) Democratic or Democratic-leaning parents with a child under age 5 say their young child has already gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to just three percent of Republican or Republican-leaning parents. Moreover, Republican and Republican-leaning parents are three times as likely as their Democratic counterparts to say they will “definitely not” be vaccinating their young child for COVID-19 (64% vs. 21%).
Similarly, nearly two-thirds of parents who are unvaccinated say they will “definitely not” get their newly eligible child under the age of 5 vaccinated for COVID-19. Notably, even among parents who are vaccinated themselves, about one in four (27%) say they will “definitely not” get their young child vaccinated.
Parents who have not yet vaccinated their eligible children under 5 and do not plan to do so right away offer many different reasons why they are reluctant to get their child vaccinated. Concerns about the newness of the vaccine and not enough testing or research (19%) emerge as a top reason why parents do not plan to vaccinate their young children as soon as possible. Concerns over side effects (14%) and the overall safety of the vaccines (13%) are also prominent reasons given by parents as to why they do not plan on vaccinating their young child. Some parents (11%) say they do not think their child needs the vaccine or say they are not worried about COVID-19.
Parents’ worries about side effects and about the newness of the vaccines are evident when they explain in their own words why they will not get their young child vaccinated for COVID-19 right away. Parents’ concerns about the efficacy of the vaccine and the feeling that the vaccine is not needed are also apparent in some of the reasons they give for not vaccinating their young child.
In Their Own Words: Why Parents Say They Will Not Get Their Child Under Age 5 Vaccinated Right Away
“I think it’s still too new and I’m worried about any long term side effects” – Black, Democratic-leaning independent mother in South Carolina
“Has not been around long enough for adequate research” – White, independent father in Wisconsin
“I want more kids to get vaccinated to see if there are any side effects that the study groups missed” – Hispanic, independent father in Maryland
“Too many uncertainty [sic] about the vaccine in kids.” – Black, Republican father in Kansas
“I don’t really trust the FDA. The Pfizer vaccine efficacy is so low, it makes me wonder about everything.” – White, Democratic mother in Maine
“We haven’t followed ‘guidelines’ for safety and are just fine, have no case of Covid and continue our daily lives and have not ever been affected. The vaccine does not prevent Covid.” – Hispanic, Republican mother in Iowa
“Everybody that has got the shot has had covid” – White, Republican father in Kentucky
“It’s not effective and potentially harmful. No upside.” White, Republican mother in South Carolina
“COVID doesn’t seem to affect them too much. They have gotten COVID before and got over it fine.” Hispanic, Democratic mother in California
Concerns over the safety of the vaccines and potential side effects are widespread among parents of unvaccinated children ages 6 months through 4 years old. Eight in ten parents of young unvaccinated children say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that their child might experience serious side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine (81%) and that not enough is known about the long-term effects of the vaccine in children (81%). Notably, even among parents who are themselves vaccinated but have not yet vaccinated their child, large shares express concerns about side effects (79%) and unknown long-term effects (74%) when it comes to vaccinating their young children.
With breakthrough infections and reinfections growing more common with the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, many parents are also concerned about the efficacy of the vaccines. Seven in ten parents are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that the vaccine will not protect their young child from getting sick from COVID-19 – including majorities of both vaccinated (71%) and unvaccinated (69%) parents of unvaccinated kids.
As schools and childcare providers adjust their COVID-19 policies and protocols, about six in ten (59%) parents of young unvaccinated children express concern that they might be required to get their child vaccinated, even if they don’t want to, including more than three in four unvaccinated parents (78%) and four in ten vaccinated parents (43%).
Though smaller shares of parents of young children say they have concerns about some access-related barriers to getting their child vaccinated, some of these concerns are fairly prevalent among Hispanic and Black parents – mirroring some differences found among parents of older children in previous KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor research. Notably, more than four in ten (44%) Black parents of unvaccinated children under 5 years old say they are concerned they might need to take time off work to get their child vaccinated or care for them if they experience side effects. Among Hispanic parents of young unvaccinated children, 45% say they are concerned about being able to get the vaccine for their child from a place they trust and about a third (36%) express concern that they might have to pay an out-of-pocket cost to get their child the vaccine.
In addition to these concerns, a slight majority (53%) of parents of young children ages 6 months through 4 years old view the vaccine as a bigger risk to their child’s health than getting infected with COVID-19, compared to 44% who say getting infected is the bigger risk. The share saying the vaccine is a bigger risk rises to 73% among Republican and Republican-leaning parents and 71% among parents who are unvaccinated themselves.
Previous mild cases of COVID-19 among young children may be contributing to parents’ sense that the virus is not a major risk for kids. About two-thirds of parents who say their young child has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past say the vaccine is a bigger risk to their child’s health than the virus itself, compared to about half of parents whose child has not tested positive for COVID-19 (67% vs. 48%).
Previous KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor research found that many parents of children under age 5 thought information about the COVID-19 vaccines for children in that age group was confusing. Following the FDA’s recent emergency use authorization of two COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months through 4 years old, many parents continue to find the information from federal agencies unclear. The latest COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor finds that a majority (55%) of parents of children under 5 think that the information from federal health agencies about the COVID-19 vaccines for children in that age group is confusing. Across income groups, a majority of parents with household incomes of at least $90,000 say they think the information from federal health agencies about vaccinating children under 5 is clear, while majorities of those with lower incomes say it is confusing.
Additionally, while most (62%) parents of unvaccinated children ages 6 months through 4 years old say they have enough information about where children in that age group can be vaccinated for COVID-19, nearly four in ten (38%) say they do not have enough information on where their child can get the vaccine.
The Role of Pediatricians
Though a large share of parents of children ages 6 months through 4 years old are reluctant to get their child the COVID-19 vaccine, vaccine uptake among this group may slowly increase as parents get additional guidance from their pediatricians, especially at their child’s regular check-up appointments. Most parents of children ages 6 months through 4 years old (70%) say they have not spoken to their pediatricians or other health care provider about the vaccine for their child. However, higher-income parents, with household incomes of $90,000 or more, are more likely than their lower-income counterparts to say they have talked to a pediatrician or health care provider. Among parents who are considering getting their young child vaccinated, most (70%) say they will wait until their child’s regular check-up to discuss getting them the vaccine, while only about a quarter of parents (27%) say they will make a specific appointment.
State Of COVID-19 Vaccine And Booster Uptake Among Children 5–17
Parents’ intentions to vaccinate their older children have remained relatively steady since the start of the year. About six in ten parents of teenagers, ages 12-17, say their child has been vaccinated (57%), with an additional 5% who say they want to “wait and see” before deciding. Nearly three in ten parents of 12-17 year-olds say they will definitely not get their child vaccinated (28%) while a further 8% say they will only do so if they are required.
Similarly, reported vaccine uptake among children ages 5-11 has also slowed in recent months. Four in ten parents of kids ages 5-11 now report their child has gotten vaccinated (40%). Just 1% of parents now say they will get their child vaccinated right away, while about one in ten parents of 5-11 year-olds still want to “wait and see.” Notably, nearly half of parents of children ages 5-11 say they either will only get them vaccinated if required to do so (10%) or say they definitely won’t get their 5-11 year-old vaccinated (37%).
With COVID-19 booster shots authorized for children between the ages of 12-17 earlier this year and more recently authorized for children ages 5-11, most parents of vaccinated children in these age groups say their child has gotten or is likely to get a booster dose. About three in ten (29%) parents of vaccinated children ages 12-17 say their teen has received a booster dose, and nearly half say they “definitely” (20%) or “probably” (29%) will do so. Among parents of vaccinated children ages 5-11, one in five (20%) say their child has already received a booster dose and a majority say they will “definitely” (31%) or “probably” (24%) get one.
State Of Adult COVID-19 Vaccine And Booster Uptake
The latest COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor finds that around three-quarters of adults (76%) say they have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a share that continues to hold relatively steady since September 2021. This includes around half of adults who say are fully vaccinated and also received a COVID-19 booster dose (49%), a quarter who have been fully vaccinated but have not gotten their booster (24%), and a small share who are partially vaccinated (2%).
When it comes to demographic uptake for the COVID-19 vaccine, Democrats (90%), college graduates (90%), adults 65 and older (87%), and those with a household income of $90,000 or more (87%) continue to report the highest rates of vaccination. Those under the age of 65 without health insurance (55%), those with a household income of less than $40,000 a year (66%), adults living in rural areas (67%), those without a college degree (68%), adults under 30 (69%), and Republicans (69%) continue to report lower COVID-19 vaccine uptake than their counterparts.
Booster uptake similarly has remained relatively steady, with those groups with higher initial vaccine uptake also more likely to have received their booster dose. Overall, around half of adults report being fully vaccinated and have received their booster dose for COVID-19 (49%), with the largest shares among adults ages 65 and over (76%), Democrats (70%), and college graduates (67%). Notably, despite a high vaccine uptake rate (83%), about a third of Hispanic adults (33%) say they’re fully vaccinated for COVID-19 but haven’t received their booster dose yet.
Though most (76%) adults in the U.S. are now vaccinated for COVID-19, about one in five (19%, or 81% of unvaccinated adults) say they will “definitely not” be getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Few adults (4%, or 19% of unvaccinated adults) say there is a chance they still might get vaccinated at some point.
Across partisans, most Democrats (90%), independents (74%), and Republicans (69%) have already gotten vaccinated for COVID-19. However, nearly three in ten Republicans (29%) and nearly one in five independents (19%) say they definitely won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine. Few across political parties say there is a chance they may still get vaccinated.
When those who are vaccinated for COVID-19 but have not received a booster dose are asked about some reasons for not getting a booster, 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.
Three in ten vaccinated adults without a booster say being too busy (30%) is a reason they have not gotten a booster dose, while about one in four say bad side effects from a previous dose is a reason for not yet getting a booster (23%). About one in five say they are waiting on a new vaccine that will target newer variants of coronavirus (21%) and 15% say a concern about missing work is a reason why they have not gotten a booster.
Vaccinated Hispanic adults without a COVID-19 booster shot are more likely to report they had bad side effects from a previous dose of the vaccine (36%) than White (21%) or Black adults (14%) and are also more likely than their counterparts to say they are worried about missing work.
Additionally, those with higher household incomes ($90,000 or more a year) are more likely than those with lower incomes (less than $40,000 a year) to say they don’t want to get a booster dose because they feel they have enough protection from their initial vaccine or a prior infection (69%, compared to 43% of those with a lower income). Two-thirds of adults with higher incomes say they just don’t want to get the vaccine (65%) compared to 45% of those with lower incomes, whereas adults with lower incomes are more likely than those with higher incomes to say they are too busy or haven’t had time to get it (41% vs. 19%).