Fewer than 325,000 of America’s youngest children are fully vaccinated as the response to the pandemic remains faltering.
Why it matters: Health officials are sounding the alarm about the potential of low childhood immunization coverage, which encourages transmission and puts some of the youngest Americans at risk of serious illness.
- “What’s really at stake is that we’re going to put a bunch of kids at risk for serious disease going forward,” 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 get ahead of this next variant is to give kids a blueprint for how to fight it, and that’s what the vaccine is doing.”
Zoom in: in the DC, which has the highest percentage of vaccinated young children, fewer than a quarter of children ages 6 months to four years have received a dose — and 7.5% have received both doses, according to the Washington Post.
- The states with some of the lowest childhood immunization rates — Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi — have immunization rates of less than 0.2%, the Post found.
The big picture: The Food and Drug Administration approved COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months to 5 years in June — about a year and a half after the first vaccines were made available for vulnerable adults.
- Children under the age of 5 had the highest hospitalization rates from COVID among adolescents, according to the CDC.
Game Status: Vaccine hesitancy is typically compounded among parents making decisions about their children’s health, Blatt said.
- “If a child does something wrong or we do something to a child, parents will always be more nervous when that child is younger and we see that with the COVID vaccine.”
- Misinformation about vaccines and poor 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 consequences of a long Covid for younger children,” Hotez said.
The bottom line: “We do a lot to keep kids safe…they wear bike helmets, eat nutritious food, have regular physicals,” Blatt said.
- “These are things that are part of routine medical care and COVID vaccines, just like other routine vaccinations, are just part of the bigger picture of keeping a child safe.”
go deeper… A pandemic hurdle has been crossed