DENVER, April 22, 2022 – A new study examines factors associated with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and uptake in the autism community. Findings from the study will be presented during the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) 2022 Meeting, taking place April 21-25 in Denver.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder are at increased risk of hospitalization from COVID-19. Vaccines reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection and severity of disease. Historically, parents of children with autism spectrum disorder are more likely to be vaccine hesitant, thus delaying or declining childhood vaccinations.
The study found early COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy waned over time and a majority of caregivers and dependents received the vaccine following FDA approval. Firmly held vaccine-hesitant beliefs, not specific to COVID-19, influenced vaccine uptake in a minority of autism spectrum disorder caregivers.
“We conducted this study to better understand how baseline vaccine hesitancy in the autism community, which is higher than the general population, was impacting parent decision-making about COVID-19 vaccines,” said J. Kiely Law, MD, MPH, director of research operations at SPARK, a Simons Foundation autism research initiative. “This was especially important to understand since other studies were finding that children with developmental disabilities, like autism, were at increased risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19. Getting children vaccinated was critical to reducing this risk.”
Dr. Law added: “Early on, 60% of parents were hesitant about their child receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Ten months later, it was reassuring to see that the majority of parents in our study made the decision for their child with autism to get vaccinated.”
Dr. Law will present “COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy – Beliefs and Practices in Caregivers of Children/Dependents with Autism Spectrum Disorder” on Saturday, April 23 at 1 p.m. MDT. Reporters interested in an interview with Dr. Law should contact PAS2022@piercom.com.
The PAS Meeting connects thousands of pediatricians and other health care providers worldwide. For more information about the PAS Meeting, please visit www.pas-meeting.org.
About the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting
The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting is the premier North American scholarly child health meeting. The PAS Meeting connects thousands of pediatricians and other health care providers worldwide. The PAS Meeting is produced through a partnership of four pediatric organizations that are leaders in the advancement of pediatric research and child advocacy: American Pediatric Society, Society for Pediatric Research, Academic Pediatric Association and American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information, please visit www.pas-meeting.org. Follow us on Twitter @PASMeeting, Instagram PASMeeting and #PAS2022, and like us on Facebook PASMeeting.
Abstract: COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy – Beliefs and Practices in Caregivers of Children/Dependents with Autism Spectrum Disorder
J. Kiely Law, MD, MPH
Kennedy Krieger Institute
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at increased risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 (Karpur 2021). Vaccines reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection and severity of disease. Historically, parents of children with ASD are more likely to be vaccine hesitant, thus delaying or declining childhood vaccinations (Sahni 2020).
To examine factors associated with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and uptake in the autism community.
Caregivers of dependents with ASD enrolled in SPARK, a national research cohort, were surveyed about COVID-19 vaccine beliefs and practices. At Time 1 (T1, Oct-Nov 2020), caregivers were asked about intentions to receive the vaccine for self/others when available. Participants were classified as not hesitant (“everyone in household will receive vaccine”), somewhat hesitant (“unsure”), and very hesitant (“no one in household will receive vaccine”). Caregiver-reported strategies to reduce hesitancy were explored. At Time 2 (T2, July-Nov 2021), caregivers reported current vaccination status (at least one dose received) for self and dependents >=12 years. Pre-COVID beliefs about vaccines were obtained from the SPARK core data set. The Area Deprivation Index, a measure of neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage, was generated from participant addresses. Chi-square tests of independence and ordered logistic regressions were used to examine characteristics associated with vaccine hesitancy.
Of the 3,115 respondents at T1, 1,880 (60.4%) completed T2. Individuals with missing data were excluded from analysis. Among 1,020 caregivers, 60.2% were somewhat or very hesitant about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in late 2020. Living in a disadvantaged community, being generally vaccine hesitant, and suspecting vaccines as a cause of ASD were strongly associated with increased COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy (Table 1). Over 50% of “very hesitant” caregivers indicated that nothing would increase their comfort level, whereas “somewhat hesitant” caregivers wanted more time to evaluate vaccine safety and effectiveness (Figure 1). At T2 follow-up, 84% of caregivers and 70% of dependents had received at least one vaccine dose. Multiple characteristics were negatively associated with child vaccination status, including caregiver hesitancy at T1 (Table 2).
Early COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy waned over time and a majority of caregivers and dependents received the vaccine following FDA approval. Firmly held vaccine-hesitant beliefs, not specific to COVID-19, influenced vaccine uptake in a minority of ASD caregivers.
Tables and Images