Orange County is reporting robust interest among parents seeking to get their young children vaccinated against COVID-19.
Since vaccinations were made eligible for 5- to 11-year-olds last week, there have been 7,788 doses administered, Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, a deputy health officer for Orange County, said Wednesday. Three thousand doses were administered on Tuesday alone, which Chinsio-Kwong called “a great number.”
Those “numbers reflect a very healthy demand in our community for vaccine,” she said, especially considering that it’s a weekday. Demand is expected to pick up through the weekend.
“I’m sure this weekend we’re going to see a lot more kids who are going to get vaccinated,” Chinsio-Kwong said.
Jeff Zients, President Biden’s COVID-19 task force coordinator, said that by the end of Wednesday, he estimated 900,000 children in this age group will have received their first shot nationally. An additional 700,000 appointments for kids already have been booked. There are 28 million American children in this age group.
Many parents eagerly hustled to schedule appointments this week after tens of millions of children nationwide became newly eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. But surveys show that parents are divided on vaccinating kids ages 5 to 11.
“Parents and families across the country are breathing giant sighs of relief. And we are just getting started,” Zients said.
And as of Wednesday morning in California, more than 110,000 children 5 to 11 had received their first vaccine dose, according to Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary.
While that’s only a small fraction of the 3.5 million children of this age statewide, Ghaly said that “we are starting to see this pick up, and I’m really encouraged about what this means for our state.”
“Vaccines are our way through this pandemic,” he said during a briefing. “We are concerned about the winter. We’re concerned about rising case numbers, pressure on our hospitals from a number of other issues on top of COVID, so do what you can today to get your vaccine. Protect yourself into the winter.”
Chinsio-Kwong urged people to get their kids vaccinated. While some have suggested they wouldn’t, in part because the risk of death is relatively low compared to the risk for adults, COVID-19 still ranks as one of the leading causes of death among children in this age group nationally.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for the 12-month period ending Oct. 2, 66 children ages 5 to 11 died from COVID-19, a number that — when compared to the leading causes of death in children in 2019 — makes the coronavirus the eighth leading cause of death in children of this age group.
“I don’t think that it is acceptable to have COVID as [among the] top 10 reasons for death in the pediatric population,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “I think we need to do better at protecting them. And now that we have this vaccine, this is a great opportunity for us to provide a more effective measure that can protect them against severe illness and death.”
California health authorities, fearing another winter coronavirus wave, are urging all eligible adults to get COVID-19 booster shots.
And for parents who don’t consider it likely their children would die even if they contract COVID-19, Chinsio-Kwong asked them to consider the long-term consequences survivors can face.
“Maybe they may not have severe illness, but how will a COVID infection impact them long term as they go into adulthood?” Chinsio-Kwong said. “There are studies showing that COVID infection — even if you’re asymptomatic or have mild illness — can cause such significant inflammation and can, and possibly will, affect your brain. And again, children are so young and their brains are still developing. The last thing we want is for them to have to be set back with their brains being affected at such a young age.”
Side effects from surviving COVID-19 include mood changes, chronic headaches and having a “foggy mind,” she said. The last thing a parent would want, she said, would be for a child to suffer lasting effects, such as memory loss.
In addition, this “pediatric population makes up more than 10% of our population. Getting them vaccinated really helps the rest of our population get closer to full immunity. And we know that getting them vaccinated allows them to also stay safe while they’re at school and engaging in small gatherings with their friends,” she said.
The health officer took her newly eligible young son to get vaccinated last weekend.
“And I know he was really scared … about the needle because he asked so many questions. And after the fact, of course, he said, ‘Mommy, it didn’t hurt as much as my flu shot. I barely felt it,’ ” Chinsio-Kwong said.