- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2022

Half of the American public has heard little or nothing at all about reformulated boosters to combat COVID-19 strains, according to a new survey that underscores the Biden administration’s challenge in promoting the shots before a potential winter surge.

The other half of Americans told the Kaiser Family Foundation they’ve heard “a lot” (17%) or “some” (33%) about the new boosters, which target both the original strain of the coronavirus and the BA.4 and BA.5 variants that are dominant.

Older Americans who face the greatest risk have shown the most interest, with 8% saying they’ve gotten the booster and 37% looking to do it as soon as possible, meaning nearly half of this group plans to come forward.

By contrast, only 3% of those ages 18-29 have gotten the booster and only 23% of them want the shots as soon as possible as many Americans pivot to normalcy and concerns beyond the pandemic.

“America is not rushing out to get the new booster. Most are only dimly aware of it, which is not surprising in a country that seems to have mostly moved on,” KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said. “The exception may be older folks, who are at greater risk and early on are more interested in the new booster.”

Mr. Biden and his top health lieutenants have promoted the shots around the country, though the survey shows it has more work to do. Officials are wary of another winter spike in disease, so they want the vaccines to match circulating strains as best as possible.

They also want Americans to get their flu shots to avoid a double-barreled health crisis over the holidays.

The new Pfizer-BioNTech booster is authorized for ages 12 and older and the Moderna one is authorized for 18 and up.

Regulators cleared a primary series of the vaccine for the youngest children earlier this year, though not many parents are coming forward.

About 1 in 5 parents with children ages 6 months through 4 years say they’ve gotten their kid vaccinated, up from 7% in July, after the shots were authorized for this age group.

However, more than half (53%) of parents in this age group say they won’t get their kids vaccinated. Many parents fear the risks of side effects from the vaccine outweigh the benefits since this age group accounts for only a tiny fraction of deaths from COVID-19.

Federal officials say the shots are safe and children should get protected, citing over 400 virus deaths in kids age 4 and younger and tens of thousands of hospitalizations, even if bad outcomes are rare overall.

KFF found that vaccination rates rose with age. Nearly half (46%) of parents with children ages 5-11 say they’ve gotten them vaccinated and 6 in 10 parents of teenagers ages 12 to 17 say they’ve brought their kids forward.

Around a third of parents in both groups say they will definitely not give their kids the vaccine.

The survey was conducted from Sept. 15 to Sept. 26 online and by telephone among a nationally representative sample of 1,534 U.S. adults.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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