In June of 2022, the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of coronavirus vaccines for children under five. Apprehension was to be expected. After all, four in 10 parents with young children said they would not get their child vaccinated, according to a July Kaiser Family Foundation survey. But doctors are growing more concerned as a recent report from the CDC found that less than 325,000 American children are fully vaccinated.
“What’s at stake really with this is that we’re going to be setting up a bunch of kids for risk of severe disease in the future,” Daniel Blatt, a pediatric infectious disease physician at the University of Louisville and Norton Children’s Hospital, told Axios. “We don’t really know what the next variant is gonna be. And the way to get ahead of that next variant is to give children a blueprint on how to fight it and that’s what the vaccine does.
Even in cities and areas that have strong vaccination numbers in adults, few children have received their shots. This can be said for the District of Columbia, where less than 21 percent of children six months to four years old receiving one shot, and only 7.5 percent having received both doses, according to the CDC. And In states where vaccination rates are already low, like Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, less than .02 percent of children are fully vaccinated.
Experts agree that this may be in large part to a lack of communication about the vaccine and an eroding trust in public health guidance that has varied over the course of the pandemic.
“We haven’t done a good job explaining the long-term developmental consequences of long COVID for younger children,” Peter Hotez, an infectious-disease physician and pediatrician at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine told The Washington Post. “And future coronavirus variants are a very likely possibility.”
From March 2020 to June 2022, 1.9 million children, ages one to four, tested positive for COVID and 202 died. While this is 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 any long-term issues from a single or multiple infections.
Doctors agree that the best way to keep children safe is to get vaccinated and increase the overall immunity of those in their community.
“We do lots of things for safety for children…they wear bicycle helmets, they eat nutritious food, they get regular checkups,” Blatt told Axios. “These are things that are part of a routine medical care, and COVID vaccines, just like other routine vaccinations, is just part of the whole picture to keep a child safe.”
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