The children’s vaccine campaign has a “strong” start, but the challenge is imminent
Health officials said on Wednesday that the US campaign to vaccinate elementary school students is off to a good start, but experts say there are signs that the initial momentum will be difficult to maintain.
The White House stated that approximately 900,000 children between the ages of 5 and 11 will receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine within the first week of their qualification.
Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, said at a briefing with reporters: “We are off to a very strong start.”
Federal regulators approved the final approval for the injection on November 2, and the first injection of the child was started in certain locations the next day.
The estimated increase in vaccinations for primary school-age children appears to be similar to the surge in May, when adolescents between 12 and 15 years of age were eligible for vaccinations.
Nearly 20,000 pharmacies, clinics, and doctor’s offices are now providing this drug to young children, and the Biden administration estimates that by the end of Wednesday, more than 900,000 children’s drugs will be given. Most importantly, about 700,000 first appointments are planned for the next few days.
Approximately 28 million children between the ages of 5 and 11 are now eligible for the low-dose Pfizer vaccine. Children who receive the first of the two shots before the end of next week will be fully vaccinated before Christmas.
The government encourages schools to open vaccination clinics on site to make it easier for children to get vaccinated. The White House also requires schools to share information from “trusted messengers” such as doctors and public health officials to combat misinformation about vaccines.
Parents who have been waiting for the opportunity to protect young children, especially before the holidays, are expected to see a surge in demand for vaccines.
In the United States, approximately 3% of newly eligible children receive the first dose in the first week, but vaccination rates vary widely across the country, just like adult vaccines.
The California Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Gurry, said on Wednesday that more than 110,000 Californians between the ages of 5 and 11 received their first coronavirus shots — 9% of children of that age in the state.
“We are starting to see this rebound, and I am very encouraged by what this means for our state,” Gali said.
At the other end of the spectrum, Idaho has only reported 2,257 first injections, accounting for 1.3% of the newly eligible children there.
In Carbell County, West Virginia, high demand has caused local health officials to start setting up vaccination clinics in all public high schools in the county. A spokesperson for the county health department said that in the first few days after vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11 years were approved, there were some vaccines that needed to be queued, but the situation has slowed down since.
Some experts say that across the country, demand may soon start to fade. They pointed out that poll data showed that only a small percentage of parents plan to vaccinate their children immediately, and they suspect that this trend will be the same as when children aged 12 to 15 were vaccinated for the first time earlier this year.
According to a review of federal data by the American Academy of Pediatrics, in the first week after the vaccine in this age group was approved in May, the number of adolescents who received the first shot increased by approximately 900,000. In the following week, it rose further, reaching 1.6 million.
“It broke out initially,” said Shannon Stockley of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But in the following months, this number has steadily declined, and it was only briefly interrupted in early August, because of the surge in delta variants, parents are preparing to send their children back to school.
Since then, the youth vaccination rate has dropped sharply, with only 32,000 people receiving the first shot last week. Only about half of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 are fully vaccinated, compared with 70% of adults.
Some experts say that the vaccination rate of young children is unlikely to be as high as that of adults-or even adolescents, unless they need to go to school.
They point out that part of the reason is that adults are more likely to develop serious illnesses or die from COVID-19 than children. Stockley, acting deputy director of the CDC Immunization Services Department, said: “Parents may think that young children may not be that serious, or they will not spread it.”
But according to data from the CDC, since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 2 million COVID cases have been reported among children between the ages of 5 and 11 in the United States, including 66 deaths in the past year. She said: “We will have a lot of work to do. It is important to communicate with parents why it is important to vaccinate their children.”
Zients said that with the launch of the new clinic, efforts to vaccinate young children are still increasing. He said that government officials expect the number of children vaccinated to continue to increase in the coming days and weeks.
“We have just started,” he said.
Earlier this year, the White House set — but failed to achieve — the July 4 goal of vaccinating at least a certain percentage of American adults. Officials have not yet announced similar goals for children.
Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, called the new figures reassuring and said that in most cases, the rollout seemed to be going well. However, she pointed out that because of the lower dosage and different vials compared to older children, rollout requires more steps, and some states are slower in providing vaccines to providers.
Preliminary data in some regions shows that black children lag behind whites in getting the first dose of vaccine, Beers said, which is cause for concern.
Beers said: “It is very important to ensure that vaccines are easily available in various places.”