Just over 17% of the population had been fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, two months after the first shots were made available for this age group. Vermont has 48% while California has just shy of 19%, and Mississippi is at 5%.
Although the number of elementary school students who received vaccines exploded after they were given in the fall, the numbers have remained steady and the explosive spread of omicron seems to have had very little impact.
According to Dr. Robert Murphy (executive director of the Institute for Global Health, Northwestern University's Feinberg College of Medicine), "very troubling" are the low rates. It's amazing.
Murphy stated that parents who hesitate to act "are taking an immense risk and continuing the pandemic," Murphy added.
In the United States, hospitalizations for children aged less than 18 who have COVID-19 have reached their highest level in recent weeks.
According to Dr. Natasha Burgert, a Kansas pediatrician, the low vaccination rates and increasing hospitalizations are "a gut punch", especially since we have been so diligent in keeping these children healthy.
Vaccines have been shown to be highly safe and effective in reducing the chance of serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
63% of Americans have been fully vaccinated. The rate for children aged 12-17 is 54%.
At least 12 countries have approved COVID-19 shots to young children. Only 2% of children in Canada are fully vaccinated, even though Pfizer shots were approved for children aged 5-11 years.
The U.S. believes that snowstorms, tornadoes, and other severe weather conditions in December have slowed down the pace of vaccination, as well as the busy holiday season. Parents have other concerns.
Kendra Shaw, a Chicago mother, has refused shots for her children at school. She says she is concerned about the possible risks and doesn't believe the benefits are worth it.
Her 10-year-old daughter begged her to get vaccinated so that she wouldn't have to miss school. And her soon-to become 7-year old son requested his shots in order to celebrate her birthday.
Shaw had scheduled their first doses for Wednesday, but stated that he was still unsure.
Daniel Kotzin of Denver said that he believes he made the right choice not to vaccinate both his 5-year old daughter and son. Most omicron cases are mild.
He said, "They are basically at no risk of injury, so I don't really understand why we should vaccinate them."
Doctors believe that this kind of thinking can lead to misguided decisions and is part of the problem.
Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a pediatric emergency physician in Rochester, New York and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, stated that children with COVID generally do better than adults. However, "not too sick" can still refer to being miserable with fevers and muscle aches for up to a week. It could also refer to MIS-C, or long COVID.
MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome) is a rare, but severe condition that can be linked to COVID-19. It can affect many organs, and usually requires hospitalization.
Omicron does not cause more severe illness in children than other variants of the virus, according to authorities. Hospitalization rates have increased partly due to its contagious nature.
Doctors say that some children were admitted to hospital for conditions like diabetes, lung disease, and sickle cell.
Dr. Jesse Hackell is a Pomona, New York pediatrician. He stated that at least 25% of his patients aged 5-11 are vaccinated. However, after a rush in the fall, these numbers have declined.
He said, "It's difficult to sell." Hackell stated that "We're still not ready" was a common comment. Hackell said, "When I ask you what are you waiting for?" I get a shrug. I've heard a few people say that they are not the first million. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."
Hackell, frustrated, said that the government's vaccination campaign was clearly failing against misinformation and pseudoscience. This is something Hackell has never witnessed in his 40-plus year career as a pediatrician.
He stated that the government must be tough and force the players to follow his orders.
"If every child could be vaccinated, it would make a big difference. Hackell stated that while it wouldn't stop the pandemic, it would eliminate the severe disease. Hackell stated that it could make the virus less serious than the common cold and help to end the pandemic.