COVID vaccination rates low for very young children

According to the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, just over 7% of Utah children under age 5 have received at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

But Utah’s rates for that age group are still higher than in the United States as a whole.

Nationally, only 6% of children under 5 have received at least one of the reduced doses of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for infants and toddlers that were finally approved in June after a delay of months for children as young as 6 months. by federal health authorities, The Washington Post reported this week.

Still, COVID-19 vaccination rates are much higher among older children and teens — six times higher for those ages 5 to 11, at 38% nationwide, and nearly double that rate for those 12 to 17, at 70. %, according to the Post. In Utah, the state reports similar numbers, with 37.4% of children ages 5-11 and 70.6% of 12 to 18-year-olds having had a first injection.

Across the country, more than 4 in 10 parents – 43% – with children aged 6 months to 4 years old said they would “definitely not go” to get them vaccinated against the deadly virus, according to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation held in July.

“It is very disappointing that we have had such low uptake of the vaccine. It is a very safe and effective vaccine for children,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah and director of epidemiology of the Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, to Deseret News.

Rich Lakin, director of immunizations for the state’s health and human services division, said the numbers for young children were expected as interest in queuing for the injections tended to wane with each new one. age group as they qualified for the vaccine.

“We are doing quite well. I am happy with what we see. I think people understand the importance. We expected it to be slower,” Lakin said. “We’re just following the trend, which we’ve seen with the older ages as you really go down the ladder.”

Washington, DC, has the highest percentage of children aged 6 months to 4 years who have received at least one COVID-19 shot, about 21%, while Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are at the bottom of the list, with less than 0.2 percent of that age group receiving at least one dose of the vaccine, the Post reported.

Lakin said as winter approaches, the number of COVID-19 vaccinations should increase for all age groups.

“I expect we will probably see a bigger increase as we get closer to winter, when we probably start to see the number of cases increase,” said the immunization director. “We usually see a trend in vaccination compared to the severity of the disease.”

Pavia, who has spoken of the frustrating wait for COVID-19 vaccines for babies and toddlers and that he sees getting the injections as a “no brainer” for parents, said one of the reasons more injections haven’t been given , is that the vaccine only became available at the beginning of the summer.

“That’s generally not a time to take your kids to the doctor,” he said. “That may have slowed it down a bit.”

On top of that, the doctor said, “is a common perception that COVID is over, which, as we all know, is unfortunately not true,”

As of the most recent update by the state last Thursday, Utah recorded nearly 2,500 new cases of COVID-19 along with a dozen additional deaths from the virus. Utah’s death toll has now passed another grim milestone, with 5,001 lives lost, including seven among children and teens ages 1 to 14.

The virus also continues to pose other risks to children.

“Over the course of the summer, where people thought COVID was gone, we had a continued high rate of child hospitalizations for COVID in Utah and across the country,” Pavia said. “So it’s not making the headlines, but it’s still there.”

He said it can be difficult for people to categorize the risk of COVID-19 for young children.

“If you compare it to the risk of serious illness in older adults, it doesn’t look very bad. But if you compare it to other diseases that we worry about for our children,” he said, their risk is currently greater for COVID-19 than “most of the other diseases that we like to vaccinate our children for.”

At the same time, some parents may go too far to the other extreme, thinking of COVID-19 vaccines for children “as if it is to protect them from a massive threat that will kill thousands of children rather than just a major way to keep our children healthy, said Pavia.

Nearly a fifth of parents in the July poll who said they wouldn’t vaccinate their young children said their biggest concern is that they believe the vaccine, the first to use what’s known as mRNA technology, is too new. and there hasn’t been enough testing or research, the most commonly given reason.

The doctor said people have not caught up with the fact that they are no longer considered new vaccines.

“We’ve literally given nearly half a billion doses of the mRNA vaccines now, so the safety record is very good now,” Pavia said. “Two years ago, it was a very legitimate concern that we didn’t know much about long-term security. But that perception should have changed.”

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