Vaccination rates against COVID are low for very young children

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

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

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

However, rates of vaccination against COVID-19 are much higher in older children and adolescents: six times higher for children aged 5 to 11 years, at 38% nationwide, and almost double of this rate for those aged 12 to 17, with 70%, according to the Post. In Utah, the state reports similar numbers, with 37.4% of 5- to 11-year-olds and 70.6% of 12- to 18-year-olds having had a first shot.

Nationwide, more than 4 in 10 parents — 43 percent — with children ages 6 months to 4 years said they would “definitely not” vaccinate them against the deadly virus, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey conducted in July .

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

Rich Lakin, immunization director for the state Department of Health and Human Services, said the numbers for young children were expected because interest in lining up for vaccines has tended to decline with each new age group as they were eligible for the vaccine.

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

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

Lakin said as winter approaches, the rate of vaccinations against COVID-19 should jump for all age groups.

“I’m anticipating that we’re probably going to see a bigger increase as we get closer to winter, when we start to see cases probably increase,” the immunization director said. “We generally see a trend with vaccination versus disease severity.”

Pavia, who has spoken about the frustrating wait for COVID-19 vaccines for babies and toddlers and sees vaccines being passed off as a no-brainer for parents, said one of the reasons why no more vaccines have been given is that The vaccine was only available at the beginning of summer.

“Generally, it’s not a time when you take your kids to the doctor,” she said. “That may have slowed it down a bit.”

Also, the doctor said, “it’s a general perception that COVID is over, which as we all know, unfortunately, is not true.”

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

The virus also continues to pose other risks to children.

“Throughout the summer, where people had thought that COVID was gone, we had a sustained high level of hospitalizations for children for COVID in Utah and across the country,” Pavia said. “So it’s not grabbing headlines, but it’s still there.”

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

“If you compare it to the risk of serious disease in older adults, it doesn’t seem too bad. But if you compare it to other diseases we worry about for our children,” he said, their risk is now greater for the COVID-19 than “for most other diseases for which we happily vaccinate our children”.

At the same time, some parents may veer too far to the other extreme, thinking of childhood COVID-19 vaccines “as if they were to protect them from a major threat that will kill thousands of children rather than an important way to keep our children healthy,” Pavia said.

Nearly a fifth of parents in the July survey who said they would not vaccinate their young children said their main concern is that they believe the vaccine, the first to use what is known as mRNA technology , she is too young and there has been no vaccine. has been enough testing or researching, the most popular reason given.

The doctor said people haven’t caught up that they are no longer considered new vaccines.

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

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