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US campaign to vaccinate young children off to sluggish start despite abundant supply

The push to vaccinate children has taken on fresh urgency amid concerns that the new Omicron variant of the virus, first identified in southern Africa and Hong Kong in late November, will spread quickly in the United States, causing a surge in infections already back on the rise from the easily transmitted Delta variant.

Given the pervasiveness of Delta and prospects of new variants spreading in the United States, “having as much immunity in the population as possible is critical”, said Dr Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

While serious illness and death from COVID-19 among children is relatively rare, cases among unvaccinated people under age 17 have increased in recent months. Infected children can also pass COVID-19 to other people at higher risk of serious illness, including those who have already been vaccinated.

Some parents have been concerned about reports of heart inflammation, a rare vaccine side effect seen in young men at higher rates than the rest of the population.

On Tuesday, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said the agency has been scouring its database of adverse events and has not found any reports of the condition among 5- to 11-year-old recipients of the vaccine.

The children’s vaccine rollout may also be hampered by staffing shortages at healthcare providers, and greater reliance on pediatricians as opposed to larger and more efficient mass vaccination centers, said Sean O’Leary, a professor of pediatrics at University of Colorado.

Fewer than 20 per cent of US children ages 5 to 11 have gotten at least one shot so far, compared to around 80 per cent of US adults, according to federal data. Of particular concern is that the number of US children getting COVID-19 shots may already be plateauing.

In the past week, more children have been receiving a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine than a first, according to government data. That suggests a slowdown in demand aside from those who were anxious to get their kids vaccinated at the first opportunity.

“I think what we were hoping for was that parents would have these meaningful conversations with pediatricians and that would provide them confidence to vaccinate their kids,” Northwell’s Harris said. “I’m not sure that that’s really come to fruition.”

US campaign to vaccinate young children off to sluggish start despite abundant supply Source link US campaign to vaccinate young children off to sluggish start despite abundant supply

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