COVID-19

Arizona kids slow to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Under 13% of kids 5-11 have shot

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As a new COVID-19 variant stirs up concerns around the country, Arizona is struggling to get its youngest residents vaccinated against the infectious disease.

According to Arizona Department of Health Services spokesman Tom Herrmann, approximately 83,166 youth age 5 to 11 have been vaccinated since the age group became eligible in November. That’s a little under 13% of the 645,000 kids in that age range living in Arizona. Young people under the age of 16 are currently only eligible to receive the two-dose Pfizer vaccine.

“While we’d love to see 100% of kids vaccinated, we’re pleased that so many Arizonans so far have gotten their kids vaccinated and hope many more do so when the holiday break provides more flexibility for parents and kids,” said Hermann.

To help combat vaccine hesitancy and reach the parents of unvaccinated kids, AZDHS has gone all out with advertising and recently produced a town hallstyle video addressing common concerns parents might have about how the vaccine will impact their children. That video can be viewed at azhealth.gov/townhalls.

Arizona’s numbers are a little under the national average.

As of Dec. 1, approximately 4.3 million U.S. children age 5 to 11 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which represents about 15% of all 5-11 year-olds.

In comparison, about 15.1 million U.S. children age 12 to 17 have received at least one dose, or 60% of the age group, and 12.7 million are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In Arizona specifically, about 58% of kids age 12-17 have received at least one dose.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Gary Kirkilas previously said the COVID-19 vaccine should be treated like any other routine childhood vaccine, including those protecting against polio and diphtheria.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re living in a pandemic now where we’re sort of experiencing this front-row seat to the newest infectious disease, COVID-19, but the response is the same: produce safe and effective vaccines so that those outbreaks are minimal,” he said. “We as a society benefit from them, and this is just another vaccine.”

Kirkilas said potential symptoms kids experience after getting vaccinated are similar to what adults experience: temporary fatigue, pain at the injection site and some light fever and chills. But the dose given to adolescents is smaller, with 10 micrograms for 5-11 year-olds, compared with 30 micrograms reserved for adults.

Valley hospitals are not yet seeing an influx of children hospitalized with COVID, but it is a concern heading into infl uenza season and the holidays when many large groups gather.

“Banner Health continues to treat children of all ages infected with COVID and that number can fluctuate from week to week – but has remained relatively steady for the past six weeks,” said Lozano.

While COVID-19 has seemed to have less of an impact on youth, local and national health officials have stressed the vaccination for children for their health and amid concerns they could transmit the coronavirus without Banner is not offering vaccines at its hospitals or clinics, but plenty of vaccines are available at other hospitals, community clinics and pediatrician’s offices.

Valleywise Health’s Dr. Michael White said the slow vaccination rate among kids could be a result of delays in rolling it out.

“We were a little slow to get started to be able to vaccinate that population, making certain that we had everything in place to be able to vaccinate that pediatric population,” he said during a Dec. 1 news conference. “I think also it’s just making sure that it’s available and making sure people understand it is really important for our young children in that age group to be vaccinated.”

White said education and awareness are important to reach hesitant groups and, like ADHS, is reaching out to parents directly.

“We are pushing and making sure that we’re contacting the parents of eligible patients in that age range to see what we can do to help them obtain access to the vaccine for that population,” he said.

While Valleywise’s hospitalizations are plateauing, about 45 to 55 patients are COVID-positive on a daily basis, according to White, and the patients are getting “younger and younger.”

“We know today that vaccine continues to be effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalizations,” he said. “It’s not too late.”

Parents can find a location for their children to be vaccinated on azdhs.gov/Find-Vaccine.

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