Jun 30, 2022 - News

Polk County's child vaccine slowdown

Illustration of a toy dinosaur with a bandaid on it's arm.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Local families in central Iowa have been slow to vaccinate their young kids from COVID-19.

Driving the news: 334 kids under 5 years old have received the vaccine in Polk County as of June 28, according to the local health department.

  • That’s less than 1% of Polk County's 34,212 children under 5.

Of note: The CDC’s vaccine clearance for kids 6 months to 4 years was only last week, making it the last age group to get approved.

  • Not all healthcare providers started administering vaccines last week, which could contribute to the low number.
  • MercyOne opened appointments this week and Polk County Health only offers 50 appointments a day.
  • Broadlawns will give Moderna shots after July 4.

The big picture: Since its approval, healthcare providers have been administering lower-doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for young kids, but to tepid response.

  • A national April poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on health issues, showed less than 20% of parents were eager about vaccinating their kids under 5, while the majority, 38%, wanted to wait and see how it works on others.

Zoom in: Parents in central Iowa are mirroring the rest of the U.S. and are also some feeling anxiety about immediately vaccinating their young kids, said Joel Waddell, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at UnityPoint.

Yes, but: There are a lot of reasons to vaccinate kids now, rather than wait and see, Waddell said.

  • It takes two months after Moderna and three months after Pfizer for young kids to have protection, he said.
  • Clinical trials already did the work of "waiting and seeing" the vaccine reactions, he said.
  • While kids who contract COVID-19 suffer severe symptoms less often than adults, it's still one of the top five causes of death in kids over the age of 5, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

What's next: Waddell expects COVID-19 rates to rise come fall and winter — which coincides with kids returning to school. If you have any hesitancy or questions about vaccinating your young kids, he suggests contacting their pediatrician.

  • You can find a COVID-19 vaccine for your kid here.
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