Factors influencing Australian mothers to vaccinate kids against COVID-19, get tested, and self-isolate

As of March 21, 2022, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is the virus that causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has infected over 472 million worldwide and caused over 6.09 million deaths. Within Australia, over 3.97 million COVID-19 cases and over 5,700 deaths have been reported.

Study: Mothers’ willingness to vaccinate young children against COVID-19, get tested and isolate: A cross-sectional survey before and during the Greater Sydney lockdown 2021, Australia. Image Credit: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

COVID-19 in Australia

Before the rollout of vaccination programs in Australia, SARS-CoV-2 transmission was managed through lockdowns, strict border closures, and high levels of testing and self-isolation. Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are available for adults and children over the age of five years in Australia.

About 95% of the population aged 16 years or below and 78% of children aged 12 to 15 years have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021 in New South Wales (NSW). Vaccines for children aged five to 11 years were available from January 10, 2022, in NSW.

However, vaccine hesitancy remains the main barrier to vaccine uptake. Recent studies have identified several sociodemographic factors that are associated with vaccine hesitancy, some of which include lower education, being female, younger age, and non-white ethnicity. Other factors include concerns on vaccine safety, efficacy, side effects, and mistrust in governments and science.

COVID-19 vaccines for newborns to children up to five years of age are not yet approved in Australia. Although children and adolescents have a lower probability of death and severe outcomes, an increase in SARS-CoV-2 transmission will cause an increase in adverse cases. Therefore, understanding the mothers’ willingness to vaccinate their young children is necessary for the development of public health campaigns and policies for this age group.

A new research paper released on Preprints with The Lancet / SSRN´s First Look* investigated whether family demographic factors were associated with mothers’ willingness to vaccinate their four-year-old children if a suitable vaccine becomes available or their willingness to self-isolate and get tested if they have symptoms. The study also investigated whether the timing of the Greater Sydney lockdown of 2021 had any impact on their willingness.

About the study

The current study was conducted from February 24, 2021, to October 26, 2021, which covered the period before and during the Greater Sydney lockdown. The participants included in the study were mothers of four-year-olds who were recruited from four local health districts in NSW.

Thereafter, data was collected and a study variable of ‘survey timing’ was generated. Survey questions were asked to recruited mothers to assess their willingness to vaccinate their young children and self-isolate and get tested if COVID-19 symptoms were present.

Study findings

Out of the 604 recruited mothers, 491 completed the COVID-19 survey questions. Out of the 491 mothers, 251 were surveyed before the lockdown, 234 during the lockdown, and six after the lockdown. The during and after lockdown participants were combined into one group.

No statistically significant differences were observed in most family demographic factors between those who did and did not complete the survey, except for age. No differences in family demographic characteristics were found for those who completed the survey before and during the lockdown.

The majority of the mothers were willing to self-isolate and get tested if COVID-19 symptoms were present. The willingness to get tested was greater in those who were surveyed during the lockdown, whereas the willingness to self-isolate was similar in both groups. Additionally, only 50% of the mothers were willing to vaccinate their children if a suitable vaccine became available.

Furthermore, mothers who were married or had a de-facto partner were more likely to self-isolate if symptomatic as compared to unmarried mothers. Mothers who were above 30 years of age and completed the survey during lockdown were also more likely to get tested if symptomatic. Also, mothers were more likely to vaccinate their children if the child’s father had received a tertiary education or higher.

Conclusions

Taken together, the study findings indicate that the ethnicity of mothers was not associated with their willingness to vaccinate their children or self-isolate and get tested if COVID-19 symptoms were present. Factors such as the mother’s age, the child’s father’s educational level, and the mother’s marital status were found to have an impact on the mothers’ willingness to vaccinate their children or get tested. However, more qualitative research is required to understand the impact of ethnicity on various COVID-19 related knowledge, practices, and attitudes.

Limitations

No causal inferences can be drawn from the study findings and survey selection bias was present in the current study. Additional limitations included the length of the questionnaire and the generalizability of the study findings could be limited due to the location of the survey.

*Important notice

Preprints with The Lancet / SSRN First Look publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:

  • Wen, L. M., Xu, H., Rissel, C., et al. (2022). Mothers’ willingness to vaccinate young children against COVID-19, get tested and isolate: A cross-sectional survey before and during the Greater Sydney lockdown 2021, Australia. The Lancet. doi:10.2139/ssrn.4059230.