A new study has found that 40% of parents nationwide...

A new study has found that 40% of parents nationwide will not get their young children vaccinated against COVID-19. Credit: AP / Ted Shaffrey

More than 40% of parents nationwide with children ages 6 months to 4 years will "definitely not" get them vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a new report released amid climbing infection rates on Long Island and across the country.

The data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, released nearly six weeks after federal regulators approved the vaccine for the nation's youngest children, shows continued hesitancy toward pediatric vaccination.

The foundation's COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor found that 17% of parents of children aged 4 years and younger said their kids have already or will soon be vaccinated; 27% want to see how the vaccine is working for other young children and 13% would give their children the shot only if mandated for school or child care.

The largest group — 43% — said they will not get their eligible child vaccinated, with the holdouts primarily Republican or GOP-leaning voters and unvaccinated parents, the data shows. But even among fully vaccinated parents, 27% said they will not get their young children vaccinated, the report found.

What to know

  • More than 40% of parents nationwide say they won't get their children ages 6 months to 4 years vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Among fully vaccinated parents, 27% said they will not get their young children vaccinated.
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation released the survey nearly six weeks after regulators approved the vaccine for the youngest children.

The top reasons identified by reluctant parents were a perceived lack of testing or research, concerns about potential side effects, the vaccine's overall safety, and a lack of concern about their child contracting the virus. A 53% majority view the vaccine as a bigger risk to their child’s health than getting infected with COVID-19, the foundation reported.

"Though a large share of parents of young children are reluctant to get their child vaccinated, pediatricians have an opportunity to provide information and guidance to parents who have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine — especially at a child’s regular checkup appointments," the report states.

Dr. Matthew Harris, medical director of the Northwell Vaccine program, said less than 300 doses of the vaccine have been distributed to date to young children at a Northwell community pod.

"My concern is, as we go into the fall, the likelihood of either new variants or a resurgence of the current variants, it's likely that we are going to see more and more kids turn positive," Harris said. "So the hope and expectation is that parents will increase the vaccination to a more significant extent, though, I do recognize their skepticism."

Merrick resident Elaine LaPersonerie, who has a 1-year-old son, said she's not against vaccinating young children but concedes, "I'm just not there yet."

"I just feel like it's still relatively new," LaPersonerie said.

Earlier this year, LaPersonerie, who is unvaccinated, her husband, son and older daughter all contracted the virus and had relatively minor symptoms

"He had a fever and a little bit of a cold," she said of her then-infant son. "But two days later, he was pretty much fine."

Cailtin Nally-Lynch, of Wantagh, got her almost 2-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter vaccinated Monday. 

"I trust my pediatrician and they say that it's safe," said Nally-Lynch, who is vaccinated but contracted the virus, as did other family members, last Easter. "And I feel that it's just beneficial to have protection."

Only 3.8% of children statewide — and 2.5% on Long Island — under the age of 5 have received their first shot since the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer and Moderna pediatric vaccines on June 17, according to state Health Department data.

The statewide numbers are considerably different for older children as 43% of those ages 5-11 have received their first shot along with 79% of children ages 12-17, state data shows.

Dr. Andrew Handel, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Stony Brook Children's Hospital, said he's not surprised by the numbers, even as Long Island's infection rate exceeds 10%.

"It's clear that there's a lot of hesitancy to get vaccinated," Handel said. "And the sentiment that it's just not needed right now for these kids. Because many families feel like the children just have such a low risk of really having problems from COVID … . But I'm hoping that over time, we can win some of these families over and show them that the vaccines are safe and they can provide some benefits to those children."


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