Belief in vaccination misinformation predicts attitudes toward vaccinating children

The survey data come from the fifth wave of the Annenberg Science Knowledge survey, a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults empaneled by the Annenberg Public Policy Center in April 2021 to track attitudes and behavior in the pandemic.

While the vast majority of U.S. adults who are fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 would be likely to recommend vaccinating a 5- to 11-year-old, over a third of fully vaccinated adults who have not had a booster shot have reservations about COVID-19 vaccination for a child that age, according to a survey data analysis by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC).

Gloved hand holding a vaccine vial and needle extended toward a parent holding their hands up to deny the shot.

APPC’s analysis of January survey data from its Annenberg Science Knowledge (ASK) national probability-based panel finds that 93% of U.S. adults who are vaccinated and boosted say they would be somewhat or very likely to recommend vaccinating a 5- to 11-year-old child if there were one in their household. But among vaccinated but not boosted adults, the percentage who would be likely to have such a child vaccinated against COVID-19 drops significantly, to 63%.

Adults who are vaccinated but unboosted are much more likely to believe misinformation about vaccination safety (for instance, that vaccines contain toxins such as antifreeze) than those who are both vaccinated and boosted, the analysis finds. And the more that one accepts these misconceptions about vaccinations, the less likely one is to recommend vaccinating a 5- to 11-year-old, APPC researchers say.

“Long-lived misconceptions about vaccination are causing some vaccinated but not boosted adults to express reservations about vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds against COVID-19,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. “As the public health community works to increase community vaccination levels, reaching these adults with corrective content delivered by trusted individuals should be a priority.”

Takeaways of the study look at vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds: Nearly two-thirds (66%) of U.S. adults say they would be likely to recommend vaccinating a hypothetical 5- to 11-year-old in their household who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. An analysis of survey respondents by the extent to which they believe vaccine misinformation shows that 39% of the vaccinated-but-not-boosted hold high levels of misinformation about the effects and safety of vaccines. The APPC analysis finds a relationship between fears of long COVID and intentions to get vaccinated: The more that unvaccinated adults worry about getting long COVID, the more likely they are to say they will get vaccinated. About 40% of the unvaccinated are potentially persuadable to be vaccinated, the analysis finds.

Read more at Annenberg Public Policy Center.