BLOOMINGTON — As COVID-19 vaccine trials continue and more are added involving children, questions grow among parents and guardians if they will be vaccinating their child when eligibility allows.
Jessica Calarco, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Indiana University, set out to find that answer. A preprint of a paper she co-authored found “more than a quarter of all U.S. parents” will not be allowing their child to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We found that those types of hesitancy or hesitancies around vaccines and concerns about vaccinating children were particularly common among mothers and especially white Republican or Republican-leaning mother,” Calarco said.
These preliminary results also found nearly a quarter of American parents “oppose efforts to require coronavirus vaccines in schools.”
“What we found was that it’s closely linked to the fact that moms often play in their family, the role of family health managers. Our society tells parents, and especially moms, that they should be constantly on the lookout for possible risks to their kid’s health. And moms in particular are often the ones who are held to blame or held accountable," Calarco said. If something goes wrong with their kid’s health or if their child has behavioral problems, or health problems, and so because of that moms are sort of highly attuned to possible risks to their children and they also feel deeply responsible for trying to control those risks.
Calarco said she studied about 2,000 parents nationwide and was surprised at the gap between mothers and fathers on this issue. The associate professor said the hesitancy towards the vaccine was “especially common among white Republican and Republican-leaning mothers.”
Initial findings of Calarco’s study found 34% of all mothers versus 17% of all fathers said they will not be vaccinating their children. The associate professor said mothers are viewed as “family health managers.”
“The moms that we talked to who say that they are least likely to get the vaccine for their children, they actually feel more able to control the risks of COVID-19 then they feel to control the risks of the vaccine,” Calarco said.
Calarco said the takeaway here is to understand “the large degree of concern” and to change the way -- particularly a mother’s role -- is viewed in public health.
“It [thoughts on COVID-19 vaccine] could change in the future particularly as vaccine rollouts for kids start to happen, but I also think there’s reason to suspect building on the history of vaccine hesitancy among parents that we might not see all of that vaccine hesitancy abate to the degree that we would need to reach herd immunity,” Calarco said.