Colleagues of mine at the Indiana University Fairbanks School for Public Health went further. They surveyed more than 10,000 parents across Indiana to see whether they planned to vaccinate their children and how they were thinking about it. More than 40 percent of parents of elementary- and middle-school children said they definitely would not get their children vaccinated against COVID, or would do so only if it were required by their schools or for other activities.
Ironically, more parents (60 percent) said they would not vaccinate their children if someone else in their household had already been infected with COVID-19. This could be because they assume that their children would have developed some natural immunity from the exposure, even if they did not get sick. Or perhaps the parent themselves had only a mild case, and therefore believes that COVID-19 isn’t dangerous enough to warrant vaccines for their children. This same type of thinking happens with influenza. Because most people don’t die from the flu, some adults don’t take it seriously enough and choose not to immunize their children.
The IU survey also found that roughly 15 percent of parents would “wait and see” how things went. This cohort is a good model for the “malleable middle” of parents, who might be nudged toward vaccination. Some of them said they might be motivated by more evidence of the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness as large numbers of other children get their shots. Others said they would be moved by recommendations from a trusted health-care provider, or by the vaccination of other children in their social circles.