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Distrust, misinformation. Holidays and bad weather have led to delays that have resulted in alarmingly low rates of COVID-19 vaccination for children between 5 and 11 years old in the United States.
As of Tuesday, just over 17% had been fully vaccinated. This is more than two months since shots were made available to the age group. While Vermont is at 48 percent, California is just shy of 19% and Mississippi is at only 5%.
The number of vaccinations given to the elementary school set surged after the shots were introduced in the fall, however the numbers have increased slowly since then, and Omicron’s explosive spread seems to have had no impact.
The low rates are “very alarming”,” said Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director for the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois. It’s incredible.
Murphy stated that parents who dread to take action “are taking a huge risk and continuing the spread of the pandemic” Murphy said.
Children who are hospitalized under 18 with COVID-19 in the US have climbed to the highest levels ever recorded within the last few weeks. Many suffer from other illnesses that are worsened by COVID-19, but the majority of them don’t have enough severity to require intensive treatment.
The low rates of vaccination and the increasing number of hospitalizations are “a gut punch, especially when we’ve been working so hard to ensure that these kids are healthy,” said Dr Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician in Overland Park, Kansas.
The vaccines have proven highly efficient and safe in cutting down the risk of serious illnesses, hospitalizations, and death.
Overall 63% of Americans are fully vaccinated. For children between the ages of 12-17, the rate is 54%..
At at least 12 countries have approved COVID-19 shots for young children. Only 2% of children in Canada which is where Pfizer shots are approved for children between 5 and 11 years are fully vaccine-free.
The rate of vaccination in the US has been slowed down by storms, snowstorms and other severe weather in December, and the busy festive season. Some parents are hesitant because the vaccine is new, and many have other concerns.
Kendra Shaw, a Chicago mother, has decided to not take shots for her children at school. She says she’s worried about the potential risks and doesn’t believe that the benefits are worth it.
However, this week her 10-year-old daughter was begging to get vaccinated so she wouldn’t miss school, and her son who’s due to turn 7 asked for his shots in order to have a big birthday party.
Shaw had scheduled their first doses for Wednesday, but stated that she was not sure.
Daniel Kotzin, a Denver resident, has stated that he believed he made the right choice not to vaccinate both his 5-year-old daughter and his 7-year-old son. Most Omicron cases are not serious.
He added, “They are essentially at zero risk of harm so it’s not a good reason to get them vaccinated.”
Doctors believe that this type of thinking is part of the problem.
“It’s true that children do better than adults in COVID,” Dr Elizabeth Murray is a pediatric emergency physician in Rochester, New York and an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “But “not too sick” isn’t always a good thing. It can mean miserable with fevers and muscular pains for up to a week. It can also mean MIS-C or long COVID.”
MIS-C, also known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome is a rare but serious condition linked to COVID-19. It can affect many organs and typically requires hospitalization.
Omicron is not a cause of more severe illness in children and adults than other variants. However, authorities believe that Omicron isn’t making it more common.
Some children have been admitted for medical conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, and sickle cell disease that have become worse due to an Omicron infection, doctors say.
Dr Jesse Hackell, a pediatrician in Pomona, New York, stated that at least 25% of his patients ages 5 to 11 have been vaccination-free, but after an initial surge in the autumn, the numbers have dwindled.
“It’s a tough sell Hackell said. “We’re not ready” is a frequent remark, Hackell said. “When I ask, ‘What are you waiting for What are you waiting for?’ “When I ask”What are you wasting time waiting for?” I get a shrug. I’ve heard a few people say, “We’re not going be the first million.” We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
A frustrated Hackell said the vaccination campaign of the government is clearly struggling against misconceptions and “pseudoscience,” the likes of which he’s not seen before in his 40-plus years as an pediatric physician.
He stated that the government has to be tough and force shots.
“If we could get every child vaccine-free, it would make an enormous difference. It wouldn’t completely end the pandemic, but it would end the serious illness, Hackell said. Hackell said. “It could turn the virus into nothing more than a common cold and we could manage that.”
Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.
AP writers Rebecca Santana in New Orleans and Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami contributed to this story.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education provides assistance to the Associated Press Health and Science Department. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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