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Only half of parents are open to vaccinating their children against COVID-19, poll finds

Comfort around vaccinating children increased compared to a few months earlier, according to the latest Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler poll

Registered nurse Barbara Davis
Registered nurse Barbara Davis, right, administers a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Robert Holt, 5, left, as his mother Jennifer, middle right and her sister Elizabeth, 3, watches on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 at Dallas County Health and Human Services in Dallas. Dallas County residents, including children ages 5-11 are now eligible for a first booster and older adults eligible for a second booster. (Shafkat Anowar / Staff Photographer)

By Marin Wolf

Parents’ willingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine for their children has returned to nearly 50% after dipping below 40% in May, according to an August poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler.

Forty-eight percent of parents surveyed said that they either definitely will get or have already gotten their children ages 6 months and older vaccinated. That’s up from 38% of parents who said the same in May for their children ages 5 and older, and a one point increase from 47% of parents who said the same in February.

The August poll is the first since COVID-19 vaccines were approved for children under 5.

Results in the May poll from the question of whether parents would get their children vaccinated were likely outliers influenced by worries about booster doses for younger age groups, said Mark Owens, pollster and associate professor of political science at UT-Tyler. The child-sized vaccine booster dose wasn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration until mid-May.

“Parents were a little bit uncertain about any of the vaccine’s risks at the time,” among other concerns, Owens said. “Now that there’s better certainty… it lets people be more confident in the results.”

While feelings about vaccinating children changed between the May and August polls, attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccinations for adults and masking remained stagnant, even as the highly contagious BA.5 variant caused cases and hospitalizations to rise.

Here’s what else the 1,384 registered voters polled by The News and UT Tyler between August 1 and August 7 had to say about COVID-related issues:

Have you worn a mask in the past seven days?

Forty-seven percent of people surveyed reported wearing a mask in the last seven days, down only one point from the 48% of respondents who said they had worn a mask in the same poll question in May.

Of Democrats polled, 70% said they had worn a mask in the previous week, while only 31% of Republicans said the same.

Ezekiel Wilhelm, 31, said he has not worn a mask in the last week, in part because he is vaccinated and had a previous COVID-19 infection, and in part because not wearing a mask is fairly normal where he lives in Humble.

“I know that cases have gone up and the viral load in sewers has gone up, but nobody here cares,” the aviation mechanic said. “And it’s hard to step away from that mentality myself.”

The COVID-19 vaccine is available to all adults. Do you plan to take it?

Sixty-five percent of respondents said they had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 19% said they do not plan to get the vaccine. The other 15% of people surveyed fell somewhere in the middle, evenly split between definitely taking the vaccine, probably taking the vaccine or being unlikely to take the vaccine.

The percentage of people surveyed who said they have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster – 39% – stayed the same between May and August.

Owens said the results show that people are staying consistent in their COVID vaccine decisions.

“Those who got the first dose of the vaccine are continuing to go get more doses. Those who have not gotten the vaccine at all are coming to a reason that they don’t need to get the vaccine,” he said.

If you received the vaccine, do you plan to get the booster vaccine soon or wait?

Of respondents who had received the vaccine but not a booster, 48% said they will probably get the additional dose later or will get it soon, while 37% said they were not interested in the booster dose. The remaining respondents said their second dose was received less than six months prior.

A booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for anyone ages 5 and older, while a second booster dose has been approved for people over the age of 50 or people over the age of 12 who are immunocompromised.

If you have not gotten the vaccine, what is the top reason you have not made an appointment to get one?

Fourteen percent of respondents said they had not gotten the vaccine because they had already had a COVID-19 infection, while 17% said they were waiting to see before getting vaccinated and 6% said they did not have enough information. About 6% said they were too busy, 5% said they were concerned with potential side effects and 17% said they simply did not want it.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to children as young as 6 months old in a smaller dose. Are you planning for your child to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Nearly half of respondents – 48% – said that their children had already received or would definitely receive the COVID-19 vaccine, while 29% said that their children would not receive the vaccine.

The rest of the respondents fell in the middle, with 13% saying their children will probably get the vaccine and 9% saying they probably wouldn’t.

Answers to this question looked slightly different depending on the age of children. Only 17% of people with children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years said their children had gotten the shot, compared to 27% of people with kids ages 5 to 11 and 29% of people with kids ages 12 to 17.

This difference is likely attributable to the fact that children under five have only been able to get the vaccine for a couple of months, Owens said.

For Immanuel Lothamer, 40, the choice to vaccinate his 3-year-old son has already changed how comfortable his family is going out in the community. Since getting his son the first child-sized dose of the vaccine, Lothamer said his son has been enrolled in Pre-K and is able to go to the park without a mask.

“We’ve been keeping him pretty isolated just so he’s healthy, and we wanted to give him more of an opportunity to be around other people safely,” said Lothamer, who lives in El Paso and works as an assistant principal.

If your child has not received the vaccine, what is the top reason for why you have not made an appointment for them to get it?

About 22% of respondents said they had not gotten their child vaccinated against COVID-19 because they are concerned about side effects, while 16% said the vaccine isn’t necessary for children. About 15% said they are waiting for more research on the vaccine and 10% said they did not trust the vaccine or the government.

Wilhelm said his 7-year-old son has not been vaccinated, but that he is still consistently wearing a mask at school. Wilhelm’s son’s mother is the one making the decision on whether to vaccinate, but Wilhelm said that if he were to explore getting his son vaccinated, he would need to do more research on the side effects of the vaccine.

The remaining 17% of respondents were about evenly split between three choices, with 6% saying they had no interest in the vaccine, 6% citing scheduling issues and 5% saying their child had already had COVID-19.

Methodology

The Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler Poll is a statewide random sample of 1,384 registered voters conducted between August 1 and 7. The mixed-mode sample includes 412 registered voters surveyed over the phone by the University of Texas at Tyler with support from ReconMR and 400 registered voters randomly selected from Dynata’s panel of online respondents. The margin of error for a sample of 972 registered voters in Texas is +/- 2.6 percentage points, and the more conservative margin of sampling error that includes design effects from this poll is +/- 2.8 percentage points for a 95% confidence interval.

The online and phone surveys were conducted in English and Spanish. They used information from the 2020 Current Population Survey and Office of the Texas Secretary of State. The sample’s gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, metropolitan density and vote choice were matched to the population of registered voters in Texas.

Visit the Center for Opinion Research for more information about our current and previous studies.

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