Preliminary results from a survey of parents and caregivers of Indiana school-age children, conducted in May and June 2021, found that only 44.8% of respondents will be vaccinating their children or already have.
The survey also determined that 13% of parents and caregivers want to wait and see the effects of the vaccine before vaccinating their child, while 42.2% said they will not vaccinate their child or will only do so if required.
The survey was a collaboration among IUPUI, the Indiana Department of Health and the Indiana Department of Education. It was distributed anonymously to parents by superintendents and principals, with 91 of Indiana’s 92 counties represented in the responses.
"These survey results generated evidence for local and state decision-makers," said Nir Menachemi, lead researcher on the study and a professor and Fairbanks Endowed Chair in the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI and IU Fort Wayne. "A lot of parents view the COVID-19 vaccine as risky, even riskier than the disease itself. With this data, we can recommend interventions that can be used to address vaccine hesitancy in communities."
Knowing someone who died or was hospitalized because of COVID-19 increased the likelihood of someone indicating their willingness to vaccinate their child, Menachemi said.
From May to June, researchers at the Fairbanks School of Public Health and the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI surveyed over 10,000 Hoosier parents and caregivers, which represents over 20,000 students enrolled in Indiana schools.
Results from the survey indicate that many parents and caregivers in the "wait and see" category were more concerned about the effects of the vaccine on their child than protecting vulnerable populations or getting back to normal. Results also showed that a recommendation from a trusted health care provider could be a strong motivator for these parents and caregivers to vaccinate their child.
"Vaccination efforts have to be an investment in the communities we are trying to serve," said Katharine Head, associate professor of communication studies at the School of Liberal Arts. "Nationally, primary care physicians and pediatricians have not been front and center with vaccine promotion efforts, even though health care providers are often considered trusted members of the community."
Understanding the public's response to vaccine adoption provides important data for policymakers responding to future public health crises.
Based on the survey findings, the researchers developed recommendations to policymakers for increasing vaccination among individuals, including fewer mass media campaigns and more targeted, community-based work. This included strategizing ways to better incorporate trusted health care providers.
"The level of response to this survey was possible because of the multi-disciplinary partnership between academia and the state government," Menachemi said.