Few parents are getting their young children vaccinated against COVID-19, despite the Biden administration’s much-anticipated rollout of the shots for children under the age of five more than a month ago.
As of last week, just 4.7% of U.S. children aged 6 months to four years old had received at least one dose of the shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Parents are not lining up for the shots, which became available June 18 after the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for children as young as six months.
According to the FDA, “the known and potential benefits of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the known and potential risks in the pediatric populations authorized for use for each vaccine.”
But parents are hesitant, and many say they will not vaccinate their young children until there is more information about immediate and long-term side effects of the “newer technology” mRNA used in the Moderna and Pfizer shots to trigger an immune response.
The debate about the shots rages on social media sites, where pro-vaccine parents accuse reluctant ones of ignoring the advice of medical professionals and the U.S. government.
Those who do not plan to vaccinate their children point to the evolving evidence on efficacy that shows the vaccine is very limited when it comes to preventing kids from getting the virus, while the complaints pile up about the side effects of the shot.
“Praise God some parents have common sense to protect their kids. They don’t need your toxic jab!!!” Janet Vogt of Florida said.
Another parent, identifying herself only as Melissa, of Wesley Chapel, Florida, said her son, age 4, “got his first dose a couple of weeks ago with no symptoms,” or negative reaction to the shot.
Parents whose children have been vaccinated believe it will reduce the severity of a COVID infection, which the FDA also states. Skeptics say the impact is minuscule because young children very rarely get very sick from a COVID infection, and immunity wears off over time.
A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey found only one in five parents were planning on immediately vaccinating their children under the age of five. Most of them, 81%, listed as a reason the potential side-effects of the shot and that not enough is known about the vaccine’s long-term impact on children.
Among the parents of unvaccinated children, 70% said the vaccine won’t protect their child from catching the virus.
The CDC figures show the number of vaccinated children rises with age, but is still low. As of late last month, 37% of children ages 5-11 had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. The number rises to 69% for those aged 12-17.
COVID and its variants, including the latest BA.5 subvariant, have spread throughout the population including among those who are vaccinated.
President Biden is currently quarantined after testing positive a second time in two weeks, despite receiving two vaccinations and two boosters against the virus.
Alex Berenson, a writer who has questioned the effectiveness of the COVID vaccine and was temporarily suspended from Twitter for posting data disputing the shot’s effectiveness, told The Washington Times that the public and particularly parents have become more skeptical of the government, health officials and the media on COVID, following years of mandates and lockdowns.
“The fact so few parents have chosen to vaccinate their young children with these mRNA shots is a stunning repudiation of the public health establishment and mainstream media, which have been haranguing parents over them for months, long before they were approved,” Mr. Berenson said. “Parents are obviously aware that COVID poses essentially no risk to almost any young child who is not severely ill to begin with, and that the long-term side effects of mRNA technology are unknown, as the technology is so new. I have also heard from parents that pediatricians have largely decided to give up talking about COVID vaccinations.”
A representative for the American Academy of Pediatrics said the academy “recommends COVID-19 vaccination for all children and adolescents 6 months of age and older who do not have contraindications using a vaccine authorized for use for their age.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a father of two young children and a Republican, has banned vaccine mandates in the state and announced state agencies would not administer the shots for children, although the vaccines are available privately.
He attracted significant backlash for the move, including from Mr. Biden, who in a veiled swipe at Mr. DeSantis said “elected officials shouldn’t get in the way and make it more difficult for parents who want their children to be vaccinated and want to protect them and those around them.”
Mr. DeSantis said his decision was based on science.
“Our department of health has been very clear that the risks outweigh the benefits,” he said in June. “And we recommend against it.”