Study: One-Third of Caregivers of Children With Cancer Are Hesitant About COVID-19 Vaccine

A survey of caregivers and parents of children with cancer shows that nearly one-third expressed hesitancy to vaccinate their youngsters against COVID-19.

Recent survey results show that nearly a third of respondents, who have frequent contact with the medical community, expressed hesitancy to vaccinate.

A survey of caregivers and parents of children with cancer shows that nearly one-third expressed hesitancy to vaccinate their youngsters against COVID-19.

Responses to a survey conducted by Duke Cancer Institute suggest that COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is common in those who have frequent contact with the medical community and among a population that has a high rate of participation in clinical trials.

“Part of the reason we wanted to survey about vaccine hesitancy in this group is that they have such frequent contact with the medical system, so we were looking for anything that might be potentially unique about this patient population that might set them apart,” senior study author Kyle Walsh, PhD, associate professor in the departments of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at Duke, said in a statement. “And actually, the rates of hesitancy were quite high.”

Walsh and colleagues conducted the 19-question survey between February and April 2021 when the initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout was occurring and before pediatric vaccines were authorized. Each survey was sent to caregivers of children with cancer who had completed treatment but could still be receiving follow-up care or surveillance, with 130 families completing the survey.

The objective of the survey was to determine what variables were associated with the caregivers’ hesitancy or willingness to vaccinate themselves and/or their children, according to the statement.

The results show that 29% of caregivers expressed hesitancy to have their children with cancer receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which is slightly higher than the 25% reported among the general population, according to the results of a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in July 2021.

Although more than 40% of the survey respondents said that their children’s cancer treatment was part of a clinical trial, the factor did not play a role in their consideration of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the statement.

“We were surprised that it was not associated with vaccine acceptability,” Walsh said.

Slightly more than half of respondents reported that their children with cancer would receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it became available to them. and 5 children had already been vaccinated.

An additional 18% of caregivers felt unsure if their child would receive the vaccine but were “leaning toward yes.”

Survey participants also found that caregivers were more inclined to have their children vaccinated if they expressed confidence in the federal response to the COVID-19, medicine, science, and vaccinations.

Participants were more willing to vaccinate if they expressed concern that an infection from COVID-19 led to extra risks to their children, whose immune systems are often fragile after cancer treatments.

Participants who reported that they were hesitant to vaccinate expressed concerns about the swiftness of COVID-19 vaccine development and insufficient data and safety for children, according to the statement.

The results highlight the need for COVID-19 vaccination education and outreach, even among families highly engaged with the medical community, and underscore the importance of updating families as significant data emerge from vaccine registries and trials, Walsh said.

“For all parents who have children with cancer, they are trying to make the best decisions for them based on the information at hand and the potential long-term effects arising from chemotherapy, radiation, and now potentially vaccinations against COVID-19,” he said.

Reference

A third of caregivers of kids with cancer have hesitancy on COVID vaccine. EurekAlert! November 17, 2021. Accessed November 17, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/934954