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COVID-19 vaccination rates highest among Asian, Hispanic kids, report finds

By January 7, 2023COVID-19

COVID-19 vaccination rates are the highest among Asian and Hispanic children and teens in the United States, according to a new national study.

The study, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, focused on racial and ethnic differences among young people who received at least one dose of the vaccine between the ages of 5 and 17 between December 2020 and September 2022.

Overall, fewer than 50% of children and teens in all ethnic and racial groups have received at least one dose of the vaccine — underscoring the larger issue health care professionals have struggled with since the shots became available for youngsters.

Data showed 75% of Asian children received at least one dose of the vaccine, followed by 49% of Hispanic/Latino kids, 45% of white children and 43% of Black children.

Researchers said parents of unvaccinated children and adolescents “reported low confidence in vaccine safety.”

“I am not surprised that vaccination rates overall are low, based on my experience with my own patients and what scientists and public health officials have been telling us,” said Dr. Sophia Jan, chief of the division of pediatrics at Northwell Health. “We need to do a better job of helping families understand how the virus is evolving and what risk it poses to families if they catch COVID.”

The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 6 months and older, and boosters for everyone 5 years and older, if eligible. The vaccines have been deemed safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

More specific data in the report outlined a wide gap among age groups.

Figures showed 63% of Asian children between the ages of 5 and 11, 89% of kids between the ages of 12 and 15 and 92% of teens 16 and 17 years old received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The next-highest group was Hispanic or Latino children with 34.5% of 5- to 11-year-olds, 64% of 12- to 15-year-olds and 77% of 16- and 17-year-olds receiving at least one dose.

Study: Parents reluctant

The study pointed to several possible factors for the disparities, such as less than one-half of parents of Black and Hispanic children had confidence in vaccine safety. Researchers also found reluctant parents often had lower percentages of friends and family who had vaccinated their children.

“It seems to me that parents who probably felt their children were at the greatest risk were the ones who were more likely to bring them in to be vaccinated,” said Martine Hackett, associate professor of health professions at Hofstra University, whose research has focused on public health and health inequities. “We know that with Hispanic families, they were more at risk for COVID-19 due to living conditions and working conditions.”

Black and white children trailed. The study showed that among Black children, 30% between the ages of 5 and 11, 57% between 12 and 15 and 65.5% of 16- and 17-year-olds received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Among white children, 31% between the ages of 5 and 11, 55.5% between 12 and 15 and 65% of 16- and 17-year-olds received at least one dose.

White parents made up the highest percentage of those who said they will definitely or probably not get their child or adolescent vaccinated against COVID-19 at 40%. The overall percentage for all ethnic/racial groups was 33%.

Side effects a concern

Hackett said part of the reason some ethnic and racial groups may not be as willing to get their children vaccinated is that they believe other risks outweigh the risk of COVID-19.

“I think that parents’ concerns about possible side effects, especially for younger children, definitely played a role,” she said. “Parents are always judging risks, and maybe for some parents it didn’t feel like such an immediate risk versus the potential harm.”

Hackett pointed out the study found other factors, such as education and access to insurance, could have played a role in decision-making by parents. Of those who had their children vaccinated, 64% had a college degree or higher, more than 55% lived in a household with a yearly income above $75,000 and 52% had health insurance, the study showed.

The CDC recommended having vaccination providers and “trusted messengers” provide culturally relevant information to build a higher level of trust among groups with lower coverage.

Jan said it also needs to be easier for families to get the vaccine.

“Because of the complex ways in which the COVID vaccines need to be stored and prepared, many pediatric offices still do not offer the vaccine routinely,” she said. “Once COVID vaccines are no longer free and require insurance coverage, getting these vaccination rates up among parents and their children will be even harder.”

She also said efforts need to be made to get parents more comfortable getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

“In general, if parents are comfortable receiving the vaccine themselves, they are more comfortable giving the vaccines to their children,” she said.

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