In the nearly three weeks since US regulators approved COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11, more than one in 10 of these children in California have rolled up their sleeves for vaccination.
But these children are concentrated in the state’s urban coastal counties. In the Bay Area, about one in four children in the largest counties have already received their first vaccination, and a staggering 40% in Marina, once a hotbed of resistance to childhood vaccinations. But in rural areas, much less vaccinations have been done.
State health officials are looking at vaccinating children as key to containing the dangerous spike in winter, and some school districts, including Oakland, will require older students to be vaccinated to attend classes starting in January.
“Vaccine delivery to California children aged 5 to 11 is well under way, with more than 300,000 first doses delivered in the first two weeks,” the California Department of Public Health said. “We are encouraged by this progress, but we continue to urge families – from young children to grandparents – to get vaccinated, complete the vaccine series, and get boosted as soon as they qualify for increased protection against COVID-19 for the holidays.”
It’s hard to say how California is doing nationwide, as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was still in the process of reporting data for this age group by state as of Friday. California said 11% of children aged 5 to 11 had their first vaccine as of Friday. Illinois reported that 12.4% had at least one shot in this age group, while Texas 7.4%.
Among California’s five most populous counties – all outside the Gulf – none reported vaccination rates for children ages 5 to 11, which were higher than the state average of 11%. Los Angeles reported that 10% received a shot.
This is in contrast to Marin County, which led by 40.4% of children aged 5 to 11 who received at least one of two Pfizer shots, given at three-week intervals of one-third the dose for adolescents and adults.
Marin County Health Officer Dr Matt Willis believes the high numbers are due to a strong public interest in vaccines and partnerships with local schools to make them available.
“That was the top priority for us,” Willis said. “When our children were finally eligible for vaccinations, there was excitement in the Marina and we prepared a lot.”
In the five most populous counties in the Bay, vaccination rates are at least double that of large counties in Southern California: 26.9% in San Francisco, 24.6% in Alameda, 24.5% in Santa Clara, 22% in San Mateo and 21.5% in Contra Costa.
In Santa Clara County, vaccination officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said child immunizations are being transferred from mass vaccination sites to school clinics, but interest in them remains steady.
“We’ve heard for a long time that many parents were delighted with the opportunity to vaccinate their young children,” Fenstersheib said.
A different story for much of rural California, where vaccination rates in many counties were less than 5% for children aged 5 to 11.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday visited Kings County, where vaccination rates were 2.7% Friday, to promote vaccines at a school in Avenal. He lamented what he called vaccine safety misinformation, adding that he had been vaccinated and boosted and that his 12-year-old had been vaccinated a few weeks ago and his 9-year-old had been vaccinated later. that day.
“You need 10 shots to go to these schools,” Newsom told reporters, noting a number of vaccinations for diseases like chickenpox and measles that the state already requires to attend public schools. “Vaccinations have been around for a century. They are safe.
Newsom announced on October 1 that California will add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of mandatory vaccinations for school attendance after it is fully approved by federal regulators for school-aged children.
The FDA has fully approved the Pfizer vaccine for children 16 years of age and older, but has so far only approved it for emergency use in children 5 to 15 years old. Given the expected federal approval timeline, Newsom said the state’s child requirements, which should be introduced separately for primary and secondary school, likely won’t begin until the early 2022-23 school year.
Without new legislation, there will be personal conscience exceptions that lawmakers canceled in 2015 for other school vaccines.
Despite the statewide timeline, several California school districts have moved forward with their own COVID-19 requirement for students to attend classes in person, and many went into effect in January, including Los Angeles Unified and Oakland Unified. But these prescriptions apply to students aged 12 and over. About 69% of 12-17 year olds across the state have had at least one vaccination.
Willis said Marin County schools don’t need the threat of vaccination to vaccinate so many of their children, which is a notable shift considering the county had one of the lowest overall immunization rates in schools when the state lifted the personal conscientious objection in 2015. year. …
“The culture of vaccination has changed at Marina,” Willis said. “Our strategy was to do everything in our power to educate society. Until now, it has been more a carrot than a whip. “
Parents are now flocking to school clinics to vaccinate their children, to sites that have music, balloons and comfort dogs to “make it child-friendly.”
“It’s like a holiday at vaccination sites,” Willis said.