In June 2022, the Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use of coronavirus vaccines for children under the age of five. Anxiety was to be expected. After all, four in 10 parents with young children said they would not have their child vaccinated, according to a July survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Doctors are increasingly concerned, however, as a recent CDC report found fewer than 325,000 American children are fully vaccinated.
“What’s really at stake is that in the future we’re going to put a bunch of kids at risk of serious diseases,” said Daniel Blatt, a pediatric infectious disease physician at the University of Louisville and Norton Children’s Hospital 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 does.
Even in cities and areas with high adult immunization rates, few children have received their vaccinations. That’s true in the District of Columbia, where less than 21 percent of children ages six months to four years received an injection, and only 7.5 percent received both doses, according to the CDC. And in states where immunization rates are already low, like Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, fewer than 0.02 percent of children are fully vaccinated.
Experts agree that this could be due in large part to a lack of communication about the vaccine and an eroding trust in divergent public health guidance as the pandemic has progressed.
“We haven’t done a good job of explaining the long-term developmental consequences of a long COVID for younger children,” said Peter Hotez, an infectious disease physician and pediatrician at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine The Washington Post. “And future coronavirus variants are a very likely possibility.”
From March 2020 to June 2022, 1.9 million children aged one to four tested positive for COVID and 202 died. Although this is only a fraction of the number compared to adults, experts agree that parents should remain vigilant. This is in large part because the virus is a relatively new disease and there is limited data to determine whether children or infants will develop long-term problems from a single infection or multiple infections.
Doctors agree that the best way to protect children is to get vaccinated and increase the overall immunity of the people in their community.
“We do a lot to keep kids safe…they wear bike helmets, they eat nutritious food, they get regular physicals,” Blatt told Axios. “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.”
Before you go, check out the natural cough and cold remedies we love for kids: