36% of 9-year-olds and 51% of 13-year-olds say they are ready to be vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to 78% of 17-year-olds, according to a major study co-led by UCL, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.
The study, published today in EClinicalMedicine, is the only large-scale study to ask children and adolescents about their willingness to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and found that the younger you are, the less likely you are to want a COVID-19 vaccination.
Analyzing data from the OxWell 2021 school survey, the authors found that those less willing to be vaccinated also often come from the most socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, feel less part of their school community, and think they’ve probably had COVID-19 before.
Associate Professor Mina Fazel (Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford) said: “The results of our survey show that children become more willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as they get older. Younger children rely more often on their parents or primary caregivers. , for healthcare and immunization decisions, but our data shows how important it is to provide good quality and accessible information to better enable our young populations to better understand the COVID-19 vaccine and its effects. . “
On the question of the vaccine reluctance survey, the study involved more than 27,000 students from 180 schools in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Merseyside. Research highlights the need for more resources to help young people feel confident and encouraged to take the COVID-19 vaccine, if it is made available and offered to them.
The researchers conclude that it is important to provide information to communities and individuals who are not naturally linked to their schools, as well as to ensure that immunization can be offered in a variety of different places to improve outcomes. access to those who could find it. difficult to access vaccination sites due to location or schedule constraints. There may be young people who value their privacy and may prefer to be able to get the vaccine without informing others around them of their choice to get the vaccine.
As COVID-19 vaccination programs are rolled out to school populations, more available resources are needed to ensure that students feel the vaccine is safe. In addition, health messages on vaccine safety and its effects on children should target both school-aged children and their parents / guardians, and should be disseminated and delivered in a format and in places where various members of the population will be able to see it. It should also be effectively shared by trusted sources on social media, as survey results show that young people who are most reluctant to get vaccinated make more use of social media.
Associate Professor Fazel added: “Young people might not want their peers, teachers or even parents to be informed of their choice to be vaccinated. They may be worried about what their friends are thinking, for example, and what they may need is a way to get vaccinated while still feeling safe and comfortable. that these possibilities are offered.
Dr Simon R White, Senior Research Associate, University of Cambridge, said: “Our data shows that there are similarities with adult populations in that people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more reluctant to seek care. get vaccinated. Therefore, targeting parents and caregivers with information and materials, which specifically address concerns they might have for their children, is important. “
Our results suggest that it will be essential to reach out and engage with young people from poorer families and communities with lower levels of confidence in immunization and the health system. A school-based vaccination program, as planned in England, is an important way to help reduce these health disparities. However, teens less engaged in their school community may need extra support so that we can achieve the highest levels of adoption. “
Professor Russell Viner, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health
Funding has been received from the Westminster Foundation at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration Oxford and Thames Valley and the NIHR Biomedical Research Center, both at the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.