One month into vaccinations for kids 5-11, uptake varies wildly by state

It’s been about a month since the FDA and CDC authorized a version of Pfizer’s vaccine for children ages five to 11. Those kids whose parents immediately took them to get vaccinated are now eligible for their second doses, and will be considered fully vaccinated by Christmas.

Despite widespread availability of the shots, vaccine uptake has varied wildly: the share of children ages five to 11 who have received at least one dose ranges from almost 50% in Vermont—to under 4% in West Virginia. In Idaho, so few children in this age range have received a vaccine dose that the CDC has yet to report a number of children vaccinated.

As you can see from the map (which uses data as of December 9), vaccination rates for kids are falling pretty much along partisan lines, with states in the Northeast and West Coast vaccinating more than those in the South and Midwest. This is unsurprising yet troubling, as the states with lower vaccination rates among kids are also those states with more lax COVID-19 safety measures in schools—suggesting that they’re exactly the kids who could use that protection.

A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor provides context on slowing vaccination rates among children. According to KFF’s polling, three in ten American parents—both of teenagers and younger kids—say they will “definitely not” get their children vaccinated. Concerns about safety and potential long-term side effects abound, even though all data so far have suggested that the vaccines are very safe for children.

While the overall data are troubling, we lack information in one key area: demographic data. Without breakdowns of child vaccination rates by race and ethnicity, it’s difficult to say whether the racial gap in vaccinations that we saw for adults earlier in 2021 has persisted for younger Americans. This data absence makes it difficult for policymakers and health advocates to address the potential need for vaccine messaging tailored to families of color.

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