Pediatric COVID vaccination has slowed across the US: analysis

The rate of COVID-19 vaccinations among children ages 5 to 11 has slowed considerably nationwide, according to a new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The analysis shows that a little more than a month since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed off on pediatric COVID-19 vaccines, the rate of increase has leveled off. The drop-off began before Thanksgiving, and has continued since.

The FDA authorized vaccines for younger kids on Nov. 2, and Kaiser found an initial spike in demand, suggesting the eager parents and caregivers had already come forward. 

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Extending vaccine eligibility to children younger than 12 has been a major goal of public health officials and was eagerly awaited by many pediatricians and families. But, just like vaccinations for adults, reaching the people after the low-hanging fruit represents the most difficult part of the vaccination campaign.

A Kaiser poll found that two thirds of parents said they will wait and see, or won’t get their child vaccinated against COVID-19 at all.

Vaccination rates among 5- to 11-year-olds, measured by first doses administered daily, rose sharply after the recommendation was first made on November 2. One week later, on November 9, the rate had risen to 4 percent, and on November 16, it was 9.8 percent. But the rate of first dose administration began to slow after that, and has continued to decline since. 

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kaiser estimated only about 16.7 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose as of December 5. This represents almost 4.8 million of the approximately 28 million children in this age group in the United States. 

The analysis found a wide variation in coverage across the country, with a more than 40 percentage point difference between the top and bottom ranking states: The share of children having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose ranged from more than 45 percent in Vermont to just 3.6 percent in West Virginia. 

Eight states have vaccinated a quarter or more of 5- to 11-year-olds; 10 states have vaccinated fewer than 10 percent.

Across 34 states, rankings on vaccination rates for children ages 5 to 11 are within 10 points of their adult populations. The analysis noted that a "handful of states" are doing better at vaccinating children than adults.

The researchers said it's difficult to figure out which children are getting vaccinated because data on vaccination by age, race and ethnicity is not available nationally, and only a few states report it.