Adolescents and their parents are interested in taking the COVID-19 vaccine; more education and other developments could sway even more, according to the results of a survey.1

Researchers surveyed 985 adolescents age 13 to 17 years and 1,022 parents of children age 12 to 17 years. Among surveyed parents, 55.5% said they would “definitely” or “probably” take their adolescent to receive a COVID-19 shot. Among unvaccinated adolescents, 51.7% reported they would “definitely” or “probably” receive the vaccine.

Notably, respondents indicated more information on safety and efficacy for adolescents was one of the top factors that would increase the likelihood of taking the vaccine. They also said primary care providers and health officials were their most trusted sources for vaccine information.

Researchers conducted this survey in mid-April, about one month before the FDA expanded its emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents age 12 to 15 years.2 Later in May, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices issued interim recommendations for the vaccine among this cohort.3 As of press time, the FDA appeared on the verge of moving beyond the EUA to give the Pfizer solution full agency approval.

These three events might give uncertain respondents from the April survey more confidence in changing their minds, but that remains to be seen. As of Aug. 17, the CDC reported 6.8 million people age 12 to 15 years and 4.1 million people age 16 to 17 years had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. At least 4.9 million people age 12 to 15 years and 3.2 million people age 16 to 17 years are fully vaccinated.4 The results of the April survey could serve as a preview of future trends. For example, the survey revealed significant differences among parents from various demographic groups. Parents who identified as female or with education lower than a bachelor’s degree expressed significantly lower adolescent COVID-19 vaccine uptake and intentions. Fewer non-white parents reported vaccination uptake. Parents living in the Midwest and South were not as eager about the shot. “Interestingly, we found no significant differences across demographic groups for adolescents,” says Aaron Scherer, PhD, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor in the department of internal medicine at the University of Iowa.

Scherer and colleagues did find a difference in demographic moderator results between parents and adolescents. This finding was surprising. “These results would suggest that inequities may manifest when parents are the primary decision-makers for adolescent COVID-19 vaccination, but these inequities may not emerge when adolescents are the primary decision-makers,” Scherer says.

Scherer provides a word of caution about interpreting data, considering the information reported about COVID-19 vaccine uptake might not be complete. That presents a challenge to creating a general strategy to promote adolescent vaccination equity. “Instead, plans to address inequities will need to be developed and implemented at the community or state level, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all federal-level approach,” Scherer suggests. 

REFERENCES

  1. Scherer AM, Gedlinske AM, Parker AM, et al. Acceptability of adolescent COVID-19 vaccination among adolescents and parents of adolescents—United States, April 15-23, 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:997-1003.
  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: FDA authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in adolescents in another important action in fight against pandemic. May 10, 2021.
  3. Wallace M, Woodworth KR, Gargano JW, et al. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ interim recommendation for use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents aged 12–15 years—United States, May 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:749-752.
  4. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. COVID data tracker. Demographic characteristics of people receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States. Updated Aug. 17, 2021.