COVID Vaccine Myths Cause Low Rates of Uptake Among US Children

According to recent research based on late September numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 8 in 10 U.S. adults have received their primary COVID-19 vaccine series, while only 31% of children aged 5 to 11 have done the same.

What is the cause of the disparity? According to experts from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, a readiness to accept safety misinformation.

The researchers discovered that adult reticence in the United States to receive COVID-19 immunizations was connected with misconceptions about vaccines in general, including suspicions that they may contain toxins and incorrect anxieties about individual vaccines such as the measles, mumps, and rubella shot (MMR). Even individuals who have been vaccinated may be hesitant to vaccinate their children.

“All of the misconceptions we analyzed focused on the safety of vaccination in some manner, which explains why people’s misbeliefs about vaccinating children are so strongly tied to their concerns about vaccinations in general,” said lead author Dan Romer, research director for the policy center.

“Unfortunately, when adults consider vaccinating children, such worries weigh much more heavily,” he stated in a university news statement.

The data came from four waves of a countrywide poll of over 1,600 adults. They were interrogated in April, June, and September 2021, as well as January 2022. The most recent wave occurred after the US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for COVID vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11. Click here for the most recent immunization rates.

Participants were polled on their knowledge, opinions, and behaviors regarding COVID and vaccines. Respondent vaccination rates ranged from 31% in April 2021 to 71% in September 2021 and 74% in January 2022.

Even immunized adults were hesitant to advocate COVID-19 vaccination for 5- to 11-year-olds due to misinformation regarding the vaccine’s safety.

Among the COVID-specific myths are assertions that the vaccines might induce infertility, of which there is no proof, and that they can affect a person’s DNA, which is wrong. Other concerns were that the immunizations were more likely to produce adverse responses, which are uncommon, and that the shots were riskier than obtaining COVID, which is untrue. Some feared that the immunizations were to blame for thousands of fatalities. There is no proof of this.

In January 2022, around 55% of all poll panelists indicated they were very inclined to advocate vaccination of children aged 5 to 11, while just 44% of parents with children under the age of 18 agreed. As the likelihood of recommending vaccination increased, so did belief in vaccine disinformation.

“Concerns about vaccination safety are definitely a major predictor of reluctance to vaccinate oneself and children,” said co-author and Annenberg Public Policy Center director Kathleen Hall Jamieson.

“It’s understandable for people to be concerned about unpleasant reactions, DNA effects, potential child fertility, and the risk that a vaccination contains toxins or causes autism. Resolving these unfounded fears should be a public health priority “Jamieson stated in the press release.

The survey discovered reduced support for COVID immunization among Black and Hispanic respondents, evangelical Christians, Republicans, and women, as well as parents of children aged 12 to 17.

Vaccines protect children from hospitalization for more than 20 weeks and can minimize the risk of illness, according to the study.

The findings were published online in the journal Vaccine on October 1.

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