Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending COVID-19 booster shots for children ages 5 to 11, time will tell whether parents take their children to get the jab.
In Santa Clara County, as of May 26, about 60% of children ages 5 to 11 are vaccinated and 70% of children ages 12+ have received a booster dose. The county does not yet track booster shots for ages 5-11. The extra shot is recommended at least five months following a Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, or two months following the Johnson & Johnson vaccination. Pfizer is the only booster shot available for children ages 5 to 11. They receive one-third of the dose given to those age 12 and older.
Parent Ariel Valencia said both her children are vaccinated. Her fifth grader, Arion, who attends Sakamoto Elementary School in the Oak Grove School District, received his COVID booster shot on Friday.
“We’re thrilled to be able to vaccinate,” Valencia told San José Spotlight. “We vaccinated both my kids at the fairgrounds on the first day it was available for their different age groups.”
Valencia said she had no hesitancy having her children, ages 11 and 17, vaccinated to protect them from any long-term COVID-related health problems.
Some parents remain hesitant to have their children vaccinated. For others, work or lack of transportation make it difficult. According to the CDC, from March 2020 to 2022, about 4.8 million children ages 5-11 had COVID. From Dec. 19, 2021 to Feb. 28, when the omicron variant surged, COVID-related hospitalization rates were twice as high among unvaccinated children ages 5-11.
Hilaria Bauer, superintendent for Alum Rock Union School District, told San José Spotlight she wishes more parents felt safe about vaccinating their children. The low number of vaccinated children in East San Jose reflects how misinformation campaigns disproportionately affect minority communities, she said.
“The number of vaccinated children varies with ZIP codes,” she said. “(The) more affluent ZIP codes have a stronger vaccination rate.”
Bauer urges parents to vaccinate their children, especially during the upcoming summer months.
“Wearing a mask is a good idea,” she said, “but the vaccine is better. I’m hoping that children who have received the vaccine would also receive the booster.”
Mary Ann Dewan, Santa Clara County superintendent of schools, said with COVID vaccines widely available, schools can benefit most when all who are eligible are fully vaccinated. Otherwise, campuses are more vulnerable to infections and outbreaks leading to disruptions in school attendance and health concerns, she added.
Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said county-operated vaccination sites have been busy administering booster shots for children ages 5 to 11.
“We have seen a very good interest in parents bringing 5- to 11-year-olds for boosters so far,” she told San Jose Spotlight, “particularly on weekends.”
She said some parents may be waiting for school to end before getting their children vaccinated or boosted. Tong anticipates an uptick in vaccination and boosters, especially if families have travel plans. She said even children who have had COVID should be vaccinated and boosted after 90 days.
Tong said this is a good time to have children ages 5 to 11 vaccinated and boosted before vaccination sites get busy in late June, when the vaccine is anticipated to be approved for those under age 5.
Joseph Di Salvo, a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education, said it’s imperative to promote the healthiest environments for all children and staff daily.
“We have always prioritized immunizations as a requirement for school enrollment,” he said. “COVID-19 vaccinations from Pfizer should be no different in application and practice for all children from 5 to 11. I say this confidently as a former elementary and middle school principal.”
See www.sccfreevax.org for Santa Clara County vaccination sites.
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]