National News

With only 12% of NC kids vaccinated, shots are slowing, sitting on shelves

Posted November 24, 2021 2:06 p.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2021 6:06 p.m. EST

A Cary pediatrician says the initial rush is over in terms of COVID-19 vaccination for kids ages 5 to 12. While many parents breathed a sigh of relief when a version of the Pfizer vaccine was authorized to protect their youngsters, others have taken a more cautious approach. That leaves hundreds of thousands of children at risk and shots sitting on shelves.

A slowdown in the rate of child vaccinations comes as COVID cases in children are picking up the pace. Across the country, coronavirus cases in children have risen 32% from about two weeks ago. More than 140,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus from Nov. 11-18, up from 107,000 in the week ending Nov. 4, according to a statement Monday from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

These cases accounted for about a quarter of the country’s caseload for the week, the statement said. Children younger than 18 make up about 22% of the U.S. population.

Meanwhile, only about 12% of children eligible for the vaccine in North Carolina have gotten it, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

At Cornerstone Pediatrics, Dr. Kristen Donoghue said there are hundreds of doses of vaccine available.

"There’s lots of places that have vaccine. There is lots of opportunity for vaccination,” she said, pointing out that Cornerstone plans drive-thru clinics on Dec. 4 and Dec. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"A year ago, we did not know if there would be enough. Now there’s enough, so we just have to get it where it belongs."

All 12 doctors on the Cornerstone staff have had their children vaccinated. Donoghue hopes their example brings some assurance to other parents.

“If we feel comfortable giving these vaccines — whether it’s COVID or others — to our children, I think there’s a good chance you should feel comfortable doing the same for yours," she said.

"We saw what happened after Thanksgiving last year, with the biggest COVID surge this area had seen. We do not want to relive that this year and we should not have to. The vaccine should create enough protection that people can have holidays with their families in safe, responsible ways," she said.

Although children are less likely to develop severe illness from COVID than adults, they are still at risk and can also spread the virus to adults. Experts have warned that children should be vaccinated to protect against possible long-COVID symptoms, multisystem inflammatory syndrome and hospitalization.

Through the end of October, about 8,300 American children ages 5-11 had been hospitalized with COVID and at least 172 had died, out of more than 3.2 million hospitalizations and 740,000 deaths overall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All of the data so far indicates that the vaccines are far safer than a bout of COVID, even for children.

Still, about 3 in 10 parents say they will definitely not get the vaccine for their 5- to 11-year-old child, according to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only about 3 in 10 parents said they would immunize their child “right away.”

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