30% of Docs Say They Don't Want Own Kids 5-11 to Get COVID Vaccine

Marcia Frellick

November 23, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

A Medscape poll on clinicians' confidence surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5-11 showed significant hesitancy.

Among physician respondents who have children in that age group, 30% said they would not want their children to be vaccinated; 9% were unsure. For nurses/advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), more (45%) said they did not want their kids to get the COVID-19 vaccine; 13% were unsure. Among pharmacists, 31% said they would not get them vaccinated and 9% were unsure.

Clinicians were more likely to want vaccinations for their kids 5-11 than were 510 consumers polled by WebMD at the same time. Overall, 49% of the consumers who had kids that age did not want them to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

On November 2, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' recommendation that children 5-11 be vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. That decision expanded vaccine recommendations to about 28 million children in the United States.

The CDC states that, in clinical trials, the Pfizer vaccine had more than 90% efficacy in preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection in children 5 to 15 years old, and that the immune response in children ages 5-15 equaled the immune response in people 16 to 25 years old.

The Medscape poll, fielded from November 3 to November 11, included 325 physicians, 793 nurses/APRNs, and 151 pharmacists.

How Safe Is the Vaccine?

Clinicians were asked how confident they were that the vaccine is safe for that age group, and 66% of physicians, 52% of nurses/APRNs, and 66% of pharmacists said they were somewhat or very confident.

Among consumers overall in the WebMD poll, 56% said they were confident or somewhat confident that the vaccine is safe in that age group.

Among adolescents and young adults, rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in adolescents and young adults have been reported. According to the CDC, "[I]n one study, the risk of myocarditis after the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech in the week following vaccination was around 54 cases per million doses administered to males ages 12-17 years."

Known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the risks, including the possible risk for myocarditis or pericarditis, the CDC states.

Across clinician types, women edged out their male counterparts on confidence in the vaccine' s safety: 71% vs 65% among physicians, 55% vs 45% among nurses/APRNs, and 68% vs 60% among pharmacists.

Among both physicians and nurses, younger physicians (under 45) tended to have greater confidence in the vaccine' s safety: 72% vs 64% (physicians), 54% vs 51% (nurses/APRNs), and 71% vs 59% (pharmacists).

The difference in confidence was clear between vaccinated and unvaccinated physicians. All of the unvaccinated physicians who responded to the poll said they had no confidence in the vaccine for kids. Among unvaccinated nurses/APRNs, 2% were somewhat confident in the vaccine for kids under 12.

Knowledge About Smaller Dosage

The clinicians were asked about whether they were aware, before reading the poll question, that the Pfizer vaccine for children and the proposed Moderna vaccine for children in this age group (5-11) would have a different dosage.

The dose for kids 5-11 is 10 micrograms rather than 30 micrograms for people at least 12 years old. Children 5-11 receive a second dose 21 days or more after their first shot. The formulation comes with an orange cap, and a smaller needle is used.

Knowledge on the lower dose was highest among pharmacists (91% said they knew), followed by physicians (84%) and nurses (79%).

The poll also asked whether the COVID-19 vaccine should be added to the list of childhood immunizations. Responses varied widely and uncertainty was evident.

Should the COVID-19 Vaccine Be Added to the List of Childhood Immunizations?

Answer Physicians (%) Nurses/APRNs (%) Pharmacists (%)
Yes 39 25 32
No 37 52 42
Not Sure 24 23 26

Notably, female physicians were more likely to say it should be added to the list of immunizations than were their male counterparts: 46% vs 35% (physicians), 26% vs 22% (nurses/APRNs), and 33% vs 30% (pharmacists).

Marcia Frellick is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. She has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Science News, and Nurse.com, and was an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter at @mfrellick.

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