Parents may have become skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines after seeing breakthrough omicron infections over the winter, causing children’s vaccination rates to stall or even pull back, according to data from researchers at Northeastern and partnering universities. The teen vaccination rate ticked upward to 57% in January 2022 from 55% in November 2021, nine months after federal authorities approved vaccines for children 12-18 years old. In that same span, the rate for kids 5-11 years old rose to 36% from 27%, a larger rise that was not surprising given that vaccines became available for the age group only in November 2021. The gap between the age groups is closing, researchers say. Even still, they say, a “substantial” number of people are foregoing inoculations.
Researchers counted a child as vaccinated after just one shot. The findings were gleaned from an online survey of more than 2,000 parents who were asked about their children’s vaccination status. Inoculations for youngsters initially surged because of high interest before stabilizing over time, similar to what happened for adults. “We’re seeing a plateauing because all the enthusiasts have gotten vaccinated, and then you’re left with wary parents who are either hesitant or adamantly against vaccines,” says David Lazer, university distinguished professor of political science and computer science, and one of the study’s lead authors.