(NEW YORK) — It has been over a month since COVID-19 vaccines became available to children as young as six months, but with millions of kids still without a shot, officials continue to face an uphill battle in their push to get the youngest Americans vaccinated.
Since the shots were authorized on June 18, approximately 544,000 children, under the age of 5, have received their first shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, representing 2.8% of the 19.5 million U.S. children in that age group.
Preliminary data reported by states shows that several states in the Northeast have the highest share of children under 5 vaccinated with at least one dose, with Washington, D.C. leading the nation with 14.4% of its jurisdiction’s children under 5 vaccinated with their first shot, followed by Vermont, with 10.3%, and Massachusetts, with 7.2%.
Mississippi has the lowest percentage of children under 5 vaccinated, with less than 0.4% of children with their first shot, followed by Alabama and Arkansas, both with 0.6%.
The sluggish start to the vaccine rollout comes as a new KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey reveals that many parents remain reluctant to vaccinate their young children. As of July, 43% of parents with children ages 6 months to 4 years old said they will “definitely not” get their child vaccinated against COVID-19. In comparison, when polled in April, 27% of parents had stated they would “definitely not” get their child vaccinated against the virus.
Thirteen percent of parents said they would only inoculate their child, if required, and 27% reported they were waiting to see whether to vaccinate their child.
Only 7% of parents reported they got their child vaccinated right away, while another 10% of parents said that they were still planning to get their child vaccinated “right away.”
When asked about their reluctance to vaccinate their children, parents cited concerns over the “newness” of the vaccine, potential side effects, as well as “not enough testing or research,” and overall worries over safety of the vaccines. A majority of parents also said the information provided by the federal health agencies on vaccines, for children in that age group, was “confusing.”
More than half of parents reported that they feel the vaccine is a bigger risk to their child’s health than contracting COVID-19 itself, while about 1 in 10 parents said they did not think their child needed the vaccine, or stated they were not worried about COVID-19.
Forty-four percent of Black parents of unvaccinated children, ages 6 months through 4 years old, reported that they were concerned they would be required to take time off work to get their child vaccinated, or to care for them should they experience side effects, while 45% Hispanic parents said they were worried about being unable to get their child vaccinated at a trusted location.
However, there are indicators that vaccination rates may pick up, as more parents speak with their child’s pediatrician about the benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Seventy percent of parents with children under 5 who are eligible for the vaccine, and are considering inoculating their child, reported they had not yet spoken to their child’s pediatrician or other health care provider about the vaccine, with 70% also saying they would wait until their child’s regular check-up to discuss getting their child vaccinated.
Among older children, nearly 3 in 10 parents of 12- to 17-year-olds, and about 4 in 10 parents of 5- to 11-year-olds said that they would definitely not get their child vaccinated for COVID-19.
Nationally, about 44 million eligible children remain completely unvaccinated, according to federal data.
The continued call to vaccinate all Americans comes amidst renewed concern over the spread of COVID-19 across the country.
Eighty-seven percent of the U.S. population lives in a county with a high or medium community risk level for COVID-19, as defined by the CDC, indicating that 6 in 10 Americans are currently living in a county where masking is recommended for all people while in indoor public settings.
COVID-19 cases among children remain at a high level, with more than 92,000 additional child COVID-19 cases reported in the last week, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA).
On average, about 300 virus-positive children are admitted to the hospital daily, marking one of the highest daily totals since February.
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