COVID-19 Vaccination Rates Among Children Under 5 Have Already Peaked: Analysis

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
July 25, 2022 Updated: July 25, 2022

The COVID-19 vaccination rates for small children have already peaked just weeks after two of the vaccines were authorized for the age group, according to a new analysis.

U.S. officials in mid-June authorized and recommended the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for virtually all children aged 6 months to 5 years.

Uptake of the vaccines among young children climbed in the initial days following the moves, but peaked on July 1 and has since dropped, according to an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Just 2.8 percent of the approximately 19 million children in the age group have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of July 20, a small increase from 1.3 percent in early July.

That’s well below the percentages among other pediatric age groups.

One month after 5- to 11-year-olds could get Pfizer’s vaccine, for instance, 16.7 percent had received at least one dose.

On the other hand, uptake has slowed with each successive age group.

Seven out of 10 children aged 12 to 17, who were cleared to receive the vaccine in late 2020 or early 2021, have received at least one dose to date. But just 37 percent of the 5 to 11 group have gotten one or more doses, according to CDC data.

“This slow uptake likely reflects a range of factors. In addition to there being fewer access points for those under the age of 5, our prior COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor Surveys, fielded before children under 5 became eligible for vaccination, found that most parents were cautious about getting their young children vaccinated; soon-to-be-released survey data will show that this caution has continued even after the CDC recommended vaccination for those 6 months and older,” Kaiser Family Foundation analysts Jennifer Kates and Stephanie Oum wrote.

“As a result, many parents may not encounter an offer of a vaccine until they go in for a routine visit to a pediatrician at some point in the year.”

Most Have Had COVID-19

Some experts have previously noted that the clinical trials for the vaccines for small children showed substandard or unreliable efficacy results against infection, and were unable to provide estimates for efficacy against severe disease.

Further, children are far less likely than adults to experience severe illness if they do contract SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, studies have shown. And about 71 percent of the youngest children have recovered from COVID-19, giving them a measure of protection against infection and strong shielding from severe cases.

U.S. government officials have continued urging parents to take their children to get one of the vaccines, asserting they will be safer after having received one.

But the low vaccination rates since emergency authorization show the “wisdom of the crowd,” Dr. Vinay Prasad, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco, wrote on Twitter. “I have yet to see any good data showing these [vaccines] help a healthy kid who had covid,” he said.