On Tuesday, doctors, nurses and health workers across the United States began administering Covid-19 vaccines to children 6 months to 5 years old, the latest group of Americans to have access to vaccines.
It was a milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, 18 long months after adults began receiving vaccines against the virus. But the response has been particularly muted by parents, with little indication of the excitement and long lines that have greeted previous vaccine rollouts.
An April poll showed less than a fifth of parents of children under 5 were eager to get the shot right away. Early adopters in this age group seemed like outliers.
At 9 a.m., Dayton Children’s Hospital in Ohio became one of the first sites to vaccinate the youngest children, with the three-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine aimed at the age group. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also approved a second option for young children, a two-dose regimen of Moderna.
Brian Wentzel, 38, brought in his 2-year-old son, Bodhi, at 9:15 a.m. Bodhi grabbed a small stuffed dog and bravely took the hit in his leg. Her mother is a doctor at the hospital.
“It was important to get him vaccinated,” Mr. Wentzel said. “It is extremely effective in preventing serious diseases.”
In many places, including Florida, New York, Boston and Los Angeles, vaccines did not yet appear to be widely available. Public health websites listed few or no appointments for this age group. Some pediatricians’ offices have reported that they have not yet received the vaccines.
Still, the families’ claims are limited. The reasons for parental hesitancy to vaccination are varied. Two years into the pandemic, many families have resigned themselves to living with the virus, and the majority of American children have already been infected, mostly showing mild symptoms.
President Biden is due to comment on the new phase of the U.S. vaccination effort on Tuesday around 3:45 p.m. Eastern Time. He and first lady Jill Biden will also visit a vaccination clinic in Washington DC earlier in the afternoon.
Although vaccines remain highly effective at protecting against serious illness and death, they have become less effective at preventing infection as the virus has mutated, leading to disappointment and cynicism with shots from the public. Some parents have faced widespread misinformation about the risks of injections, while others worry about rare side effects or simply don’t want their children to be among the first to receive a new vaccine.
This is the case even though parents and young children have endured some of the oldest public health and education restrictions, due to their lack of access to a vaccine. And that’s especially true in liberal-leaning states and cities, which have taken a more cautious approach to the virus.
Many daycares and preschools still require mask-wearing and lengthy quarantines for children who come into close contact with the virus, even though K-12 schools have generally lifted those precautions. Parents are exhausted after years of disrupted routines and report that their young children have never experienced school or socialization under normal circumstances.
Yet the global pediatric vaccination campaign has disappointed many public health experts. Less than 30% of children aged 5 to 11 have received two injections.
At a paddling pool in West St. Paul, Minnesota, Jen Wilkerson, 28, a barista, said she has no plans to have her 4-year-old son Jaxson vaccinated, even if she is vaccinated.
She said she became concerned after developing bumps in her leg after two previous vaccines for other illnesses, and recalled Jaxson did not fall ill when she contracted Covid-19 the year last.
“He’s a little window-slicker,” she said. “With the strength of his immune system, I don’t feel the need for him to get vaccinated at the moment. I’m waiting for him to get older. I’ll wait until he’s around 10.
In Durant, Mississippi, Monique Moore, 39, a teacher, said she would wait several months until her 4-year-old son, Rashun, was 5 before having him vaccinated.
“I didn’t want him to be in the first batch to do it,” she said, “but I didn’t want to not do it either.”
Other parents said that vaccination would finally get them out of a difficult time in their lives.
In Brookline, Mass., Jenn Erickson, 40, quit her job when her son Miro was born at the start of the pandemic. She has “no hesitation” about having him vaccinated, she said, which would allow her to confidently enroll her son in daycare while she returns to work.
“It feels like a lot of the world has moved on without us,” Ms Erickson said. “Children who were born during the pandemic finally have some protection. We are going to have to organize a massive celebration for the parents who have had to bear this enormous stress. »
Kevin Williams, Christina Capechi, Ellen B. Meacham, Catherine McGloin and Adel Hassan contributed report.