As more Covid vaccines become available to Americans aged 12 up, another obstacle remains for the teens to get vaccinated: their parents.
According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 19 per cent of US parents with children aged 17 or younger said they would “definitely not get them vaccinated” for Covid-19. But the teens don’t always agree, which can lead to conflicts within families.
“It’s not by definition a vaccine,” one frantic Kentucky dad can be heard telling his daughter in a TikTok video that went viral this week. “It is a human trial. It is genetic therapy… It’s not FDA-approved.”
As the video progresses, it becomes clear that the father had offered his teenage daughter a bribe – $2,000, she said in the comments – not to get the shot.
“Why are you trying to buy me off?” the daughter, named Brianna, asks him.
“Because I love you!” the father shouts back in anguish.
The video is shocking, but in some ways not surprising. Republican men have repeatedly proven vulnerable to misinformation about Covid-19, and are one of the biggest holdout groups for getting vaccinated. As more teenagers become eligible for the shots – Pfizer’s was recently authorized for teens, and Moderna’s is likely next – some of them are facing pushback from their own fathers.
“Why do you think I’m f***ing crazy?” the distraught dad explodes later in the TikTok video, noting with horror that the rest of his family has already been vaccinated. “My family is gone! By the end of this flu season most of you will be dead!”
In reality, all three of the Covid-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States – Pfizer-BioNTech’s, Moderna’s, and Johnson & Johnson’s – have proven extremely safe and effective. The Food and Drug Administration has given them emergency authorization, rather than approving them, only because the usual approval process could have delayed the vaccines’ use for months as Americans continued to die of the virus.
But Brianna’s father is not alone. Kelly Danielpour, an 18-year-old in Los Angeles, runs a website called VaxTeen, which provides resources for teenagers struggling with anti-vax parents. Ms Danielpour told NBC News she started the site before the pandemic, but these days most of the questions she gets are about Covid-19.
“I am lucky because my parents are pro-vaccine, but there seems to be a lot of teens whose parents are opposed to letting them get vaccinated,” she told NBC.
Among the thousands of comments on Brianna’s video, which already has over 13,500 likes, many viewers said they’d gone through something similar with their own parents.
“OMG I’m soooo sorry,” one wrote. “This guy sounds like a propaganda believer like my father. His beliefs are nuts. The extremism ruins families.”
“My dad was the same way but I still got it!” another commented. “Pretty sad how the Republicans have brainwashed them.”
“Tell him that Trump got it,” another suggested. “Maybe that will comfort him.”
Donald Trump did, in fact, receive a Covid vaccine in January 2021, but kept his shot secret for months. He had also repeatedly downplayed the pandemic’s seriousness, occasionally called it a “hoax,” and promoted bogus miracle cures for the virus.
Even after Mr Trump left office, vaccine misinformation has continued to spread in conservative circles. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson has told his viewers “maybe it doesn’t work.” Senator Rand Paul recently announced that he won’t get the shot because he already had the virus – directly contradicting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says everyone, including those who have previously been infected, should get vaccinated.
The good news is that although Republicans still resist vaccination at higher rates than other groups, they are increasingly changing their minds. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 20 per cent of GOP adults said they would “definitely not” get vaccinated in May – down from 29 per cent in April. A majority – 55 per cent – said they had either received a vaccine dose already or planned to get one as soon as possible.
As for the remaining 45 per cent, their kids may get the vaccine before they do.
On Wednesday, Brianna posted a “Part 2” video.
“Today I got the vaccine,” she said. “My dad doesn’t know that, because he would just freak out again if I told him.”