COVID-19 Vaccine Parent Messaging

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This document contains results from a survey research study conducted from March 11 to March 23, 2022 as part of the HHS COVID-19 Public Education Campaign. The research evaluated, validated, and prioritized 31 messages to identify the most effective messages that increase the likelihood of parents1 getting a COVID-19 vaccine shot for their child. 

Key Findings

  1. Messages with the broadest appeal mentioned the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, individual risk, safety, and effectiveness messages were successful in reaching this audience. Benefit messages described COVID-19 vaccines as offering children protection against severe illness associated with COVID-19, allowing children to return to school and daycare, and providing a safe and effective form of protection with minimal side effects. 
  2. Although one risk message was a top message performer, and risk messages have performed well for other populations, most risk messages did not perform as well. Messages about hospitalization, infection rates, and long-term health risks of COVID-19 among children were not effective at increasing parents’ child vaccine intentions. Most messages that provided information about the dose of the vaccine, how the vaccine was tested and developed, and the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine  – compared to other vaccines – were also not effective. 
  3. Given that no single message was a top performer across age ranges of children, these findings suggest that messaging aimed at increasing vaccination among children should target the specific age range in question. Parents with children ages 6 months to 4 years old were most convinced by messages about vaccine safety, the benefits that vaccination can have on parents, and pediatricians recommending getting children vaccinated. Parents of children ages 5–11 were most convinced by messages with a mix of topics, including benefits of getting vaccinated (children being able to socialize), vaccine safety, and protection (from severe disease), while parents of children ages 12–17 responded more to messages on the risks of COVID-19 to their child (e.g., death rates for children, unpredictability of COVID).

Overall Top-Performing Messages


Protect: Our children rely on us from day one, and as they grow, we do everything we can to protect them. Protect your child from severe disease with a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.

Severity Protection: The vaccine offers the best protection available for your child from severe illness or death if they get COVID.

Back to Normal: COVID has had a tremendous impact on all children. Their lives have been interrupted by the pandemic. COVID vaccines help us keep kids in school and daycare and helps them enjoy their lives again.

Risk, Safety, and Effectiveness

Risk (Unpredictable): Even though many children have had mild cases of COVID, you can’t predict how COVID will affect your child – even if they are completely healthy. The best protection is vaccination.

Safety (Serious Side Effects Rare): Decades of research on dozens of vaccines have demonstrated that side effects usually show up within six weeks of vaccination. COVID vaccines have been studied and tested for almost 2 years in tens of thousands of adults and children, and serious side effects are very rare.

Effectiveness (Variant Effectiveness): COVID vaccines have worked to prevent severe disease, including hospitalization and death, against all COVID variants we’ve seen so far.

1 Parents were selected based on their having gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, having a child aged 5-17, and not saying they would never get their child vaccinated. If parents also had a child under age 5, questions were asked about messaging for that child as well.

DISCLAIMER: At the time of this research, vaccines for children under 5 years old had not yet been authorized.