Covid-19 vaccine rates for kids echo regional disparities, worrying doctors

Whether children receive a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine often depends on where they call home.

About 81 percent of children ages 12-17 in Vermont have received at least one dose of vaccine to protect against Covid-19, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data analyzed by NBC News. Puerto Rico leads the U.S. with a vaccination rate of 91 percent.

But in West Virginia the rate is just 35 percent — a marker of stark regional disparities that are deepening across the nation.

The analysis, which tracks closely with a separate review of vaccine data by the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests children are subject to some of the same geographic inequities as adults.

About 58 percent of eligible children nationwide have received at least one shot, but the rollout has stalled. Just 137,000 kids received a first shot last week — the second fewest in a week since April, according to academy of pediatrics data.

Children 16 and up became eligible for the Pfizer vaccine last December. Access was expanded to children ages 12 to 15 in May. The number of children receiving first shots has been on a downward trend since mid-August, the academy of pediatrics data says.

As the pace of vaccination slows among these young people, doctors say they’re battling deeply ingrained misconceptions that could leave many children unvaccinated and at heightened risk. Some parents internalized reassuring messages about kids’ risk early in the pandemic that aren’t true. Vaccine access and parents’ vaccine hesitancy are also issues.

Children now represent about a quarter of all new Covid cases in the U.S. Polling suggests that doctors and health officials could face an uphill battle to convince parents of children ages 5 through 11 to pursue the vaccine, which could be crucial to easing the pandemic.

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