Story at a glance

  • As of Tuesday, more than 17 percent of children ages 5 to 11 years old were fully vaccinated.
  • But in the week ending Jan. 6, more than 580,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported.
  • A number of factors could be contributing to low vaccination rates among children, from severe weather events like recent snowstorms and tornadoes to parents' hesitation.

Despite the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizing children 5 to 11 years old to receive a COVID-19 vaccine months ago, data reveals not enough children have gotten the potentially life-saving jab. 

The FDA authorized Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children 5 to 11 years old back in October 2021, but an analysis by The Associated Press (AP) found that as of Tuesday, more than 17 percent of children in that age group were fully vaccinated. There are wide discrepancies throughout the country, where states like Vermont have vaccinated 48 percent of children ages 5 to 11, while in California only about 19 percent have been vaccinated and in Mississippi only 5 percent have been. 

Those vaccination numbers stand in stark contrast to the number of U.S. children that have tested positive for COVID-19, with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reporting that nearly 8.5 million children have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began. 

It's recently accelerated, with AAP noting for the week ending Jan. 6, more than 580,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported. That's a 78 percent increase over the 325,000 cases reported in the week ending Dec. 30. 


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The more children that test positive for COVID-19, the higher the likelihood that many will end up hospitalized, which is what many states are now seeing. Last week in New York state, a report revealed a sevenfold increase from 70 to 571 in minors admitted for or with COVID-19 between the weeks of Dec. 5 and Jan. 1.  

A similar situation played out in Washington, D.C., where the Children’s National Hospital said it was treating 53 children with COVID-19, the highest number the district has experienced since the pandemic began. 

Some children have been admitted to hospitals for underlying conditions like lung disease, diabetes and sickle cell disease that have worsened because they contracted COVID-19, according to the AP. 

Low vaccination rates in children and rising hospitalizations are like, “a gut punch, especially when we’ve been working so hard to keep these kids well,” said Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician in Kansas, to the AP. 

However, a combination of factors could be contributing to low vaccination rates among children, from severe weather events like recent snowstorms and tornadoes to parents' hesitation on the safety and necessity of a COVID-19 vaccine.  

Doctors from Yale Medicine laid out how despite young children having documented less serious cases of COVID-19, a vaccine is still necessary to protect them. 

“Any time an individual is infected with the virus, they are a potential source of infection—they can spread it to a more vulnerable person, and overall help to perpetuate a cycle of infection that could lead to yet another variant,” said Leslie Sude, a pediatrician for Yale Medicine. 

When announcing the emergency use authorization of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years old, the FDA tried to emphasize its safety and make parents feel comfortable about getting their children vaccinated. 

“As a mother and a physician, I know that parents, caregivers, school staff, and children have been waiting for today’s authorization. Vaccinating younger children against COVID-19 will bring us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy,” said Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner. 

Jesse Hackell, a pediatrician in New York, told the AP that she’s frustrated with the government’s vaccination campaign and believes it’s up against misinformation and “pseudoscience.” 

“If we could get every kid vaccinated across the board, it would go a long way. It wouldn’t end the pandemic, but it would end the severe disease. It could help turn the virus into nothing more serious than the common cold, and we can deal with that,” said Hackell. 


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Published on Jan 12, 2022