Survey: 1 in 3 Parents Report Intentions to Skip Flu Vaccinations for Children

September 28, 2020

Approximately 1-third of parents who participated in a national survey said they are unlikely to have their child vaccinated against the flu amid the pandemic.

Have you counseled your customers about getting their flu vaccine this year?

Results of a new national poll report that approximately 1 in 3 parents do not intend to have their child vaccinated against the flu this year.1

In August 2020 the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health conducted the survey, interviewing a national sample of randomly selected parents about getting the flu vaccine for their children. The survey completion rate was 60% among panel members contacted to participants. The results report is based on responses from 1992 parents who had at least 1 child ages 2 to 18 years old.1

Public health experts and health care professionals are urging people to get their influenza vaccination to reduce the burden of flu season during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. 

“We may see peaks of flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could overwhelm the health care system, strain testing capacity, and potentially reduce our ability to catch and treat both respiratory illnesses effectively,” Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark, MPH, said in a press release.2

Overall, 2-thirds of parents this year intend to get their child vaccinated against the flu (49% very likely and 19% likely). Compared with younger children, parental intentions for teens getting vaccinated were slightly lower (73% for ages 2 to 4 years, 70% for ages 5 to 12 years, and 65% for ages 13 to 18 years).1

The results also showed:1

  • Thirty-four percent of parents believe that having children get the flu vaccine is more important this year compared with other years; 8% said it is less important, and 58% said it is about the same.
  • Parents who believe getting the flu vaccine is more important this year are more likely to intend for their child to get the vaccine.
  • Forty-four percent of parents said their child’s regular health care provider strongly recommends that their child get the flu vaccine this year, and 23% said the provider recommends it; 1-third of parents did not recall a provider recommending the flu vaccine for their child.
  • Among parents who reported strong provider recommendations for the flu vaccine, 92% intend to get their child vaccinated, compared with 62% of those whose provider recommended the vaccine and 40% who do not recall a provider recommendation.
  • The most common reasons reported for parents who do not intend to have their child get the flu vaccine include concerns about adverse effects (42%) and belief that the flu vaccine is not necessary (40%) or effective (32%). Fourteen percent reported wanting to keep their child away from health care sites due to COVID, and 9% said their child is afraid of needles or does not want the vaccine.

The survey findings back previous reports that showcase vaccine hesitancy among parents. Results of a study published in Pediatrics demonstrated that 6.1% of parents remain hesitant about routine childhood vaccines, and just over a quarter of parents reported concerns about the flu vaccine. Only 26% of the 2175 parents surveyed strongly agreed that the influenza vaccine was effective.

“A key challenge for public health officials is how to reach parents who do not routinely seek seasonal flu vaccination for their child,” Clark said.2 “When getting a yearly flu vaccine is not a pattern, parents need to be prompted to think about why it’s essential for their child to get vaccinated.”

According to CDC estimates, the number of flu-related deaths in children for the 2019-2020 season tied the highest recorded number for pediatric flu deaths reported during a regular flu season, which occurred during 2017-2018. Additionally, the CDC reported that, during 2019-2020 season, only 21% of children eligible for vaccination were fully vaccinated against the flu.3

Pharmacists are well positioned to educate parents about the importance of their child receiving a flu vaccination. As many pharmacies are expanding their flu vaccine services to children, pharmacists can play a role in ensuring that parents feel safe bringing their child in for vaccination amid the pandemic. 

References:

  1. Clark SJ, Freed GL, Singer DC, Gebremariam A, Schultz SL. Mott Poll Report: Flu Vaccine for Children in the Time of COVID. C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. September 28, 2020. https://mottpoll.org/sites/default/files/documents/092820_FluVaccine.pdf
  2. 1 in 3 Parents Plan to Skip Flu Shots for Their Kids During COVID-19 Pandemic. News release. University of Michigan Health; September 28, 2020. Accessed September 28, 2020. https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/childrens-health/1-3-parents-plan-to-skip-flu-shots-for-their-kids-during-covid-19-pandemic.
  3. 2019-20 Season’s Pediatric Flu Deaths Tie High Mark Set During the 2017-18 Season. News release. CDC; August 21, 2020. Accessed September 28, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/2019-2020/2019-20-pediatric-flu-deaths.htm