Doubts on safety, efficacy in children underlie parents’ vaccine hesitancy: POLL

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(WASHINGTON) — Half of parents in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll are skeptical about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines for children, potentially a key barrier as the government seeks to boost uptake.

Numerous recent surveys have found substantial numbers of parents hesitant to have their child vaccinated against the coronavirus. This poll explores these compunctions by assessing parents’ views of whether the vaccines are safe and effective, both well-established motivators of uptake.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.

The results: Just 46% of adults with a child younger than 18 at home are confident that the vaccines are safe for children age 5 to 17. It’s about the same, 47%, for confidence that the vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness and death in this age group. Fifty-two percent are not so or not at all confident in their safety or effectiveness.

These are far from ABC/Post results in September asking about the vaccines generally, not specifically for children. Among all adults, 71% called the vaccines safe and 72% saw them as effective. Results on safety were similar last April for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, less so for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, measured during a pause in its use.

This poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds that strength of sentiment is a further challenge: Twice as many parents are not at all confident that the vaccines are safe for children age 5 to 17 than are very confident of this, 41% versus 21%. The gap is smaller on effectiveness, but still 12 percentage points, 38% versus 26%.


As with many pandemic attitudes, partisan and ideological preferences inform views on vaccines for children. While sample sizes for parent subgroups are small, skepticism about the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness in 5- to 17-year-olds peaks among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, as well as among conservatives.

In other gaps, mothers are more apt than fathers to be confident in the vaccines’ effectiveness, 55% versus 38%. (The difference between the sexes in views of safety is smaller, and not statistically significant.) Confidence in safety, for its part, is much higher among parents who are members of racial or ethnic minority groups, compared with white parents. (On effectiveness, the racial/ethnic gap shrinks, and is not significant.)

A connection with attitudes on school policies is apparent as well. Parents who support their local school district’s pandemic policies are more apt than those who see these policies as too strict to express confidence in the vaccines. That again connects with politics: Seeing school policies as too strict rises sharply among leaned Republicans and conservative parents.


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Nov. 7-10, 2021, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including 240 adults with children living at home. Results among adults with children at home have a margin of sampling error of 7.5 percentage points, including the design effect.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York City with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Maryland. See details on the survey’s methodology here.

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