MMWR reports almost 52% of unvaccinated adolescents aged 13–17 years would receive a COVID-19 vaccination

July 13, 2021

A Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) survey conducted just before the expanded availability of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to adolescents aged 12–15 years found that approximately one half of unvaccinated adolescents and parents of unvaccinated adolescents reported not intending for or being uncertain about whether the adolescent would receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

Female parents, those with lower educational attainment, and those living in the Midwest or South Census regions had lower intentions to have their unvaccinated adolescent receive a COVID-19 vaccination. 

Most adolescents and parents reported being comfortable with adolescent COVID-19 vaccination occurring at the adolescent’s usual doctor’s office or clinic. However, other possible vaccination locations, such as local pharmacies or temporary indoor vaccination clinics, were also acceptable to many parents and adolescents. Public health officials at federal, state, and local levels and primary care professionals were the most trusted sources of information about COVID-19 vaccines. 

Having more information about adolescent COVID-19 vaccine safety and vaccine efficacy were among the most frequently selected factors that parents and adolescents reported would increase adolescent COVID-19 vaccination intent. Although few adolescents and parents of adolescents reported that a health care professional recommendation would increase their intent for adolescent COVID-19 vaccination, health care professionals were one of the most trusted sources of COVID-19 vaccine information. Given that a health care professional’s recommendation is one of the strongest predictors of vaccination in general (3), public health officials and primary care professionals can emphasize adolescent COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy in discussions with the public to help increase COVID-19 vaccination intent and coverage among adolescents. 

Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in May 2021 for adolescents aged 12–15 years. In April 2021, 52% of unvaccinated adolescents aged 13–17 years and 56% of parents of unvaccinated adolescents aged 12–17 years reported intent for adolescent COVID-19 vaccination. The most common factors that would increase vaccination intent were receiving more information about adolescent COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy.

Efforts focusing on effectively communicating the benefits and safety of COVID-19 vaccination for adolescents to the public could help increase adolescent COVID-19 vaccine confidence and vaccination coverage. 

On May 10, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded its Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents aged 12–15 years; this authorization was followed by interim recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the vaccine among this age group. Using data from nonprobability–based Internet panel surveys administered by the Healthcare and Public Perceptions of Immunizations (HaPPI) Survey Collaborative, the acceptability of adolescent COVID-19 vaccination and self-reported factors increasing vaccination intent were assessed among independently recruited samples of 985 adolescents aged 13–17 years and 1,022 parents and guardians (parents) of adolescents aged 12–17 years during April 15–April 23, 2021, prior to vaccine authorization for this age group. 

Approximately one quarter (27.6%) of parents whose adolescents were already vaccine-eligible (i.e., aged 16–17 years) reported their adolescent had received ≥1 COVID-19 vaccine dose, similar to the proportion reported by vaccine-eligible adolescents aged 16–17 years (26.1%). However, vaccine receipt reported by parents of adolescents differed across demographic groups; parents identifying as female or Hispanic, or who had an education lower than a bachelor’s degree reported the lowest adolescent COVID-19 vaccination receipt. Among parents of unvaccinated adolescents aged 12–17 years, 55.5% reported they would “definitely” or “probably” have their adolescent receive a COVID-19 vaccination. 

 Among unvaccinated adolescents aged 13–17 years, 51.7% reported they would “definitely” or “probably” receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Obtaining more information about adolescent COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy, as well as school COVID-19 vaccination requirements, were the most commonly reported factors that would increase vaccination intentions among both parents and adolescents. Federal, state, and local health officials and primary care professionals were the most trusted sources of COVID-19 vaccine information among both groups. Efforts focusing on clearly communicating to the public the benefits and safety of COVID-19 vaccination for adolescents, particularly by healthcare professionals, could help increase confidence in adolescent COVID-19 vaccine and vaccination coverage.

The HaPPI Survey Collaborative is part of a cooperative agreement between CDC and researchers at the University of Iowa and the RAND Corporation to survey health care professionals and the U.S. public on vaccine-related issues. 

Parents of unvaccinated adolescents and unvaccinated adolescents reported feeling most comfortable with vaccination occurring at the adolescent’s usual doctor’s office or clinic (66.6% and 76.5%, respectively). At least one quarter of parents of unvaccinated adolescents and one quarter of unvaccinated adolescents also reported being comfortable with vaccination at a local pharmacy (37.1% and 39.9%, respectively), a doctor’s office or clinic other than the usual one (32.2% and 31.8%), temporary indoor vaccination clinics (28.2% and 25.3%), or at school with a parent or caregiver present (26.1% and 30.2%). Approximately one half of parents of adolescents and one half of adolescents reported government agencies including CDC and FDA (53.1% and 57.8%, respectively), primary care professionals (47.3% and 45.7%), and state or local health officials (46.6% and 49.4%, respectively) as trusted sources of COVID-19 vaccine information.

The CDC has more.

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