Fewer than 5,000 North Carolina toddlers fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Wednesday, August 10, 2022
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Just 4% of children under 5 -- about 26,000 -- have gotten their first shot, and less than 5,000 have completed a full vaccine series.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Nearly two months since the Food and Drug Administration approved COVID-19 vaccines for children between 6 months and 5 years old, North Carolina families have been slow on the uptake.

Just 4% of children under 5 -- about 26,000 -- have gotten their first shot, and less than 5,000 have completed a full vaccine series.

But health experts like state health director and chief medical officer Dr. Elizabeth Tilson said they expected the slow uptake.

"We were also expecting a slower rate of administration because what we were hearing from families was that they really wanted to get this vaccine in their trusted medical home, in their pediatricians office, in their family medicine office," Tilson said.

Some parents were more eager. When Raleigh mom Heather Frost's daughter turned 5 last March, she immediately got in line to get her shot.

"As soon as she became eligible we wanted to make sure she got vaccinated," Frost said.

She said after two long years of masking and staying indoors, she wanted to do whatever she could to protect her daughter and her family, but understood that every family needs to make the decision for themselves.

"I think it's important that everybody makes the decision for their family based on what they know about their circumstances," Frost said. "But I know the peace of mind for me was excellent. And just knowing that we had done everything we could to, you know, give her the best shot was really important to us."

Tilson recommended families make the shot convenient by combining it with other childhood vaccinations like MMR or meningitis.

"I think, from a family standpoint, it makes it easier for them if they're already coming for their regular vaccines, great go ahead and do it at the same time, instead of them having to do an extra trip," Tilson said.

She stressed the importance of those childhood vaccines in addition to the COVID-19 vaccine.

"In our history, one of the biggest public health successes has been vaccines," Tilson said, emphasizing that August is Immunization Awareness Month.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers, vaccination rates for school age children dropped slightly in the 2020-2021 school year, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think that's a critical message for our families with young children-is really paying attention to the routine child immunizations and making sure all of our kids are up to date on all of their routine childhood immunizations," Tilson said.

Tilson added that the strain of COVID-19 currently circulating, BA.5, is highly transmissible for both adults and children. She recommends anyone who has yet to be vaccinated or boosted get a shot now rather than waiting for an omicron-specific booster in the fall.