Fewer than 325,000 of America’s youngest children have been fully vaccinated, as hesitation continues to haunt the pandemic response.
Why it matters: Health officials are sounding the alarm about the potential of low childhood vaccination rates fueling transmission and putting some of the youngest Americans at risk for serious illness.
- “What’s really at stake here is that in the future we’re going to be setting up a bunch of kids for the risk of serious illness,” Daniel Blatt, a pediatric infectious disease physician at the University of Louisville and Norton Children’s Hospital, told Axios.
- “We don’t really know what the next variant will be. And the way to stay ahead of that next variant is to give kids a blueprint on how to fight it and that’s what the vaccine does.”
Zoom in: In DC, which has the highest percentage of young children vaccinated, according to the Washington Post, fewer than a quarter of children aged 6 months to four years received one dose — and 7.5% received both doses.
- The states with some of the lowest childhood vaccination rates — Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi — have vaccination rates below 0.2%, the Post found.
The big picture: The Food and Drug Administration approved COVID-19 vaccines for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years in June — about a year and a half after the first vaccines became available for vulnerable adults.
- According to the CDC, children under the age of 5 have had the highest number of COVID hospitalizations among young people.
Situation: Vaccine hesitation is usually amplified in parents making decisions about their children’s health, Blatt said.
- “If a child is going to do something or we are going to do something to a child, a parent will always be more nervous if that child is younger, and we see that with the COVID vaccine.”
- Misinformation about vaccines and insufficient communication about vaccinations both contribute to the low rates, Peter Hotez, an infectious disease physician and pediatrician at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told the Post.
- “We haven’t done a good job of explaining the long-term developmental ramifications of long-term covid on younger children,” Hotez said.
It comes down to: “We do a lot of things for the safety of children … they wear bicycle helmets, they eat nutritious food, they are checked regularly,” Blatt said.
- “These are things that are part of routine medical care, and COVID vaccines, like other routine vaccinations, are only part of the whole picture of keeping a child safe.”
Go deeper… Passed a pandemic hurdle