Jul 6, 2022 - COVID

Philadelphia families encounter slow vaccine rollout for kids under 5

Illustration of a bandaid made out of lego blocks.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Hundreds of children ages 6 months to 5 years old have received a COVID-19 vaccine in Philadelphia since the age group became eligible more than two weeks ago, the city Department of Public Health told Axios.

  • But the health agency says that number should be in the tens of thousands.

What's happening: Families are facing obstacles finding vaccines. Pharmacists in Pennsylvania are only allowed to provide COVID vaccines to children ages 3 and older, so most parents of infants and toddlers have to turn to pediatrician's offices to get the shots.

  • Many pediatricians, including those at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, did not initially order doses for the youngest age group when they first became available, which has led to delays, Department of Public Health spokesperson Matthew Rankin said.

The big picture: An April study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found 18% of parents with children up to age 5 said they intended to vaccinate them once the shot was approved, while 38% said they would wait and see what happened.

  • Nearly 40% said they would vaccinate their child only if required.

Between the lines: Philadelphia hasn't released demographic data or specific figures yet on the number of children under 5 who've been vaccinated so far.

  • Rankin told Axios the city is waiting for more data before adding the age group to its vaccination dashboard, but that there's no timeline for when that'll happen.

Of note: The city's in-home vaccination program — designed for individuals who may face difficulty leaving their home to get vaccinated due to health issues, a disability or other barriers — is not offered to children under 5.

  • Since most of the city's in-home providers are pharmacies that are unable to vaccinate part of this population, the health department plans to look into other providers who may be able to administer the shots.

What they're saying: The city expects to see more vaccines for kids under 5 become available in the coming weeks.

  • Some pediatrician's offices "wanted to make sure that the vaccine was safe and effective" for the age group, Rankin said. "Now that it's been shown to be exactly that, we're seeing more orders being placed."
  • "We knew this would be a slow rollout, and are happy to see every single child who gets vaccinated," he added.
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