Many Tennessee parents are not wearing masks consistently to control community spread of COVID-19, despite recommendations from public health officials, according to new a poll conducted by the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy.
Only 57% of 1,066 parents polled in Tennessee report wearing a mask every time they were in stores, businesses, or outside the home in the past month, the survey found. Parents were also hesitant about the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine, with just over half (53%) reporting they would vaccinate their child when an FDA-approved vaccine is made available.
The poll is the first to target Tennessee parents since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents were also surveyed on their beliefs about mask effectiveness, the likelihood they would wear masks if there were a state or national mandate, and the flu and COVID-19 vaccines.
The poll found that 57% of parents believe masks protect themselves and 68% believe that wearing a mask is important for children. Most parents reported that masks were easy to wear (66%) and protect others (66%). Overall, 48% of parents strongly agreed or agreed they would be more likely to wear a mask if there was a state mandate. Forty-six percent would be more likely to wear a mask if there was a national mandate.
Overall, more parents (64%) said they would get their children vaccinated for the flu than would vaccinate their children for COVID-19 (53%).
“We know through this poll that parents have not consistently or universally embraced mask-wearing and many are hesitant to get vaccinated, despite public health organizations, physicians, and officials urging Tennesseans to take steps to limit the spread of the virus,” said Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH, a neonatologist at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy.
“We need to focus on building trust with these parents to keep them and their children safe,” Patrick said.
Researchers found that many parents lack trust in the sources of information they receive about the virus and strategies to decrease virus spread, including public health organizations and medical professionals.
The sources parents trusted most for information about COVID-19 were the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Tennessee Department of Health, both at 38%, followed by their child’s health care provider at 35%. However, no information source was trusted by more than 40% of parents.
“Tennessee parents do not have a consistent person or institution they trust for information on COVID-19,” said Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy. “That may be one reason why almost half of parents are not planning on vaccinating their children against COVID-19. As we enter the next critical phase of the pandemic, we have work to do to gain parents’ trust so that we can fight the pandemic together.”
Many poll results varied by parents’ race and ethnicity.
Both Black and Hispanic parents were more likely to report wearing masks and face coverings than white parents.
Non-Hispanic Black parents were less likely to vaccinate their children against the flu (56%) and COVID-19 (44%) than Hispanic and white parents. Hispanic parents were more likely to get a COVID-19 vaccination (61%) than any other racial or ethnic group.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had such a disruptive effect globally and the loss of life has been devasting. Non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians have been disproportionately impacted by illness and death and poll results show that there is a lot of work that needs to be done to build trust in medical and public health establishments and also help ensure parents that the COVID-19 vaccine will be safe and effective in protecting their children,” said Kecia Carroll, MD, MPH, Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy.
The poll results and complete report can be accessed at www.childpolicy.org/poll.