Education

Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says

By The Associated Press — November 10, 2021 4 min read
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The campaign to vaccinate elementary school age children in the U.S. is off to a strong start, health officials said Wednesday, but experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.

About 900,000 kids aged 5 to 11 will have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in their first week of eligibility, the White House said Wednesday, providing the first glimpse at the pace of the school-aged vaccination campaign.

“We’re off to a very strong start,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients, during a briefing with reporters Wednesday.

Final clearance for the shots was granted by federal regulators on Nov. 2, with the first doses to kids beginning in some locations the following day.

The estimated increase in vaccinations in elementary school age children appears similar to a jump seen in May, when adolescents ages 12 to 15 became eligible for shots.

Now nearly 20,000 pharmacies, clinics and physicians’ offices are administering the doses to younger kids, and the Biden administration estimates that by the end of Wednesday more than 900,000 of the kid doses will have been administered. Additionally about 700,000 first-shot appointments are scheduled for the coming days.

About 28 million 5 to 11 year-olds are now eligible for the low-dose Pfizer vaccine. Kids who get their first of two shots by the end of next week will be fully vaccinated by Christmas.

The administration is encouraging schools to host vaccine clinics on site to make it even easier for kids to get shots. The White House is also asking schools to share information from “trusted messengers” like doctors and public health officials to combat misinformation around the vaccines.

See Also

A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

A initial surge in demand for vaccinations was expected from parents who have been waiting for the chance to protect their younger kids, especially before the holidays.

In West Virginia’s Cabell County, high demand for the pediatric vaccines led local health officials to start setting up vaccination clinics in all the county’s public middle schools. A spokeswoman for the county health department said there were some lines for vaccines in the first few days after the doses were approved for kids ages 5 to 11, but that things have slowed since then.

Some experts say that nationally, demand could begin to recede in only a matter of weeks. They note polling data suggests only a fraction of parents have planned to get their kids shots immediately, and they suspect the trend will play out like it did earlier this year when kids ages 12 to 15 were authorized to get shots.

In the first week after vaccines for that age group were authorized in May, the number of adolescents getting a first shot jumped by roughly 900,000, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics review of federal data. The next week, it rose even further, to 1.6 million.

“There was an initial burst,” said Shannon Stokley of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But then the number dropped steadily for months, interrupted only briefly in early August as the delta variant surged and parents prepared to send children back to school.

Since then, adolescent vaccinations have flagged considerably, to just 32,000 getting their first shots last week. Only about half of adolescents ages 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated, compared to 70% of adults.

See Also

In this April 1955 file photo, first and second-graders at St. Vibiana's school are inoculated against polio with the Salk vaccine in Los Angeles. Tens of millions of today's older Americans lived through the polio epidemic, their childhood summers dominated by concern about the virus. Some parents banned their kids from public swimming pools and neighborhood playgrounds and avoided large gatherings. Some of those from the polio era are sharing their memories with today's youngsters as a lesson of hope for the battle against COVID-19. Soon after polio vaccines became widely available, U.S. cases and death tolls plummeted to hundreds a year, then dozens in the 1960s, and to U.S. eradication in 1979.
In this April 1955 file photo, 1st and 2nd graders are inoculated against polio with the Salk vaccine in Los Angeles.
AP

Barring school attendance vaccination requirements, it’s unlikely that vaccination rates in young kids will be as high as what’s seen in adults — or even in adolescents, some experts said.

Part of the reason is COVID-19 has been more dangerous to adults, especially older adults, while causing far fewer serious illnesses and deaths in children, they noted.

“Parents may have the perception it may not be as serious in young children or they don’t transmit it,” said Stokley, the acting deputy director of the CDC’s Immunization Services Division.

But more than 2 million COVID cases have been reported in U.S. children ages 5 to 11 since the pandemic started, including 66 deaths over the past year, according to CDC data. “We’re going to have a lot of work to do to communicate to parents about why it’s important to get children vaccinated,” she said.

Zients said the effort to vaccinate younger kids is still ramping up, with new clinics coming on line. Government officials expect the number of children who are vaccinated to keep rising in the days and weeks ahead, he said.

“We are just getting started,” he said.

Earlier this year the White House set — and missed — a July 4 goal to have at least certain percentage of U.S. adults vaccinated. Officials have not announced a similar target for kids.

Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, called the new numbers reassuring and said the rollout appears to be going smoothly for the most part. She noted however that with a lower dose and different vials than for older kids, the rollout requires more steps and that some states have been slower in getting vaccine to providers.

Initial data from some areas show Black children lagging behind whites in getting their first doses, which Beers said raises concerns.

“It’s really important to make sure the vaccine is easily accessible in a wide variety of places,’’ Beers said.

Kids & the COVID-19 Vaccine: Must-Reads

Looking for more information on COVID-19 vaccinations and kids? Browse this curated list of news, advice, and more, broken down by topic. For the latest, view Education Week’s ongoing vaccine coverage.

The Latest

Student Well-Being Kids and COVID-19 Vaccines: The Latest News
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Vaccine Administration

Ticket number 937 sits on a COVID-19 vaccination at the drive-thru vaccination site in the Coweta County Fairgrounds on Jan. 14, 2021, in Newnan, Ga.
A ticket number sits on a COVID-19 vaccination at the drive-thru vaccination site in the Coweta County Fairgrounds in Newnan, Ga.
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Federal White House Outlines COVID-19 Vaccination Plans for Kids 5-11
Evie Blad, October 20, 2021
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Cole Rodriguez, a 15-year-old student at Topeka West, gets a COVID-19 vaccine Monday, Aug. 9, 2021 at Topeka High School's vaccine clinic.
Cole Rodriguez, a 15-year-old student, gets a COVID-19 vaccine at Topeka High School's vaccine clinic.
Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP

Communicating About the Vaccine

Image of a stethescope, teddy bear, and vaccine syringe.
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Cheryl Watson-Harris, superintendent of the DeKalb County School District in DeKalb, Ga.
Cheryl Watson-Harris, superintendent of the DeKalb County School District in Georgia.
Dustin Chambers for Education Week
Corey Ruth, a student at McDonogh 35 high school in Louisiana, was unsure of getting the COVID-19 vaccine until his athletic trainer talked to him about it.
Corey Ruth, a student at McDonogh 35 high school in Louisiana, was unsure about getting the COVID-19 vaccine until his athletic trainer talked to him.
Harlin Miller for Education Week

Vaccine Mandates

Opponents of legislation that tightened  rules on exemptions for vaccinations demonstrate outside the office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom in Sacramento, Calif., in Sept. 2019. Medical exemptions in California more than tripled in the three years after they became the only allowable reason for a student to be unvaccinated.
Opponents of legislation that tightened rules on exemptions for vaccinations demonstrate outside the office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom in Sacramento, Calif., in Sept. 2019.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
States How Vaccine Loopholes Could Weaken COVID Shot Mandates for Kids
Evie Blad, September 28, 2021
9 min read
Diego Cervantes, 16, gets a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the First Baptist Church of Pasadena on May 14, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif.
Diego Cervantes, 16, gets a shot of the Pfizer vaccine at the First Baptist Church of Pasadena last spring in Pasadena, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Lessons From History

In this April 1955 file photo, first and second-graders at St. Vibiana's school are inoculated against polio with the Salk vaccine in Los Angeles. Tens of millions of today's older Americans lived through the polio epidemic, their childhood summers dominated by concern about the virus. Some parents banned their kids from public swimming pools and neighborhood playgrounds and avoided large gatherings. Some of those from the polio era are sharing their memories with today's youngsters as a lesson of hope for the battle against COVID-19. Soon after polio vaccines became widely available, U.S. cases and death tolls plummeted to hundreds a year, then dozens in the 1960s, and to U.S. eradication in 1979.
In this April 1955 file photo, 1st and 2nd graders are inoculated against polio with the Salk vaccine in Los Angeles.
AP

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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