Adolescents with ADHD are at increased risk for COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of psychiatric research






Adolescence; Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; Coronavirus; Social determinants; Vaccination; Vaccine hesitancy


Identifying factors that influence adolescent intentions for COVID-19 vaccination is essential for developing strategic interventions to increase uptake, particularly in subgroups of at-risk adolescents. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adolescence is characterized by difficulties regulating attention and behavior, social impairment, and impulsive risk-taking behaviors, which may impact vaccine hesitancy and vaccine uptake. This study examined hesitancy toward COVID-19 vaccines among adolescents with and without ADHD, and explored how ADHD status interacted with malleable social mechanisms and other social determinants of health in predicting vaccine hesitancy. Participants were 196 U.S. adolescents (44.4% male), 45.6% diagnosed with ADHD. Adolescents reported their confidence and willingness toward COVID-19 vaccines from March to May 2021. Adolescents with ADHD reported greater hesitancy and less confidence in COVID-19 vaccine safety compared to adolescents without ADHD (p < .01). Only 61.8% of adolescents with ADHD reported vaccine acceptance, compared to 81.3% of adolescents without ADHD. For all adolescents, those who identified as Black or Latinx and with lower family income had greater hesitancy and reduced confidence, whereas greater COVID-19 concerns, media use, and perceived negative impact on relationships was associated with greater vaccination willingness. Social contextual processes significantly interacted with ADHD status such that for adolescents without ADHD, concerns about COVID-19 were associated with increased confidence in vaccine safety. Being noncompliant with social distancing guidelines was associated with greater vaccine hesitancy, only for adolescents with ADHD. A concerted effort is needed to increase trust, confidence, and social relevance among adolescents, especially those with ADHD and from lower socio-economic backgrounds.


Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences