(Trends Wide) — With federal health authorities poised to consider Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5 and up, most Americans are scheduled to receive a vaccine soon. But a widening gap between vaccination rates could slow the country’s progress in its fight against COVID-19, an expert warned Thursday.
In the case of 12-17 year olds, a key demographic that lags behind other age groups, with only 47% complete immunization nationwide, many southern states lag further behind.
Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee have less than a third of eligible teens fully vaccinated, according to a Trends Wide analysis, as do North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming. And that could pose a bigger challenge going forward, experts warn.
“Again, there is this geographic divide where parents are reluctant to vaccinate their teens, and I have to believe that they are probably also reluctant to vaccinate younger children,” Dean Dr. Peter Hotez told Trends Wide. from the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas.
“So it is possible that we will find a very low acceptance of this pediatric vaccine in the south and also in the mountainous west, and that is going to be a problem that is going to slow us down,” he warned.
And because the delta variant remains the most common form of the virus in the United States, unvaccinated children are at significant risk because that strain is more transmissible.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet on October 26 to discuss Pfizer’s application for an emergency use authorization for the vaccine in children ages 5 to 11. If the FDA gives it the green light, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will have the final go-ahead.
So far, about a third of parents of children ages 5 to 11 say they will vaccinate their children as soon as the vaccine becomes available for that age group, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Vaccine Monitor survey, released late. of last month.
However, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the director general of US Health, declared Thursday that there could be more COVID-19 vaccination mandates for children at the state level once the vaccines are approved.
“I think part of the reason you’re going to see more states that are likely to move in that direction after clearance is because we all want our kids to go back to school, to be able to stay in school, and to be safe.” Murthy told Trends Wide. “We have lost hundreds of children to covid. […] Thousands have been hospitalized, and we could prevent a lot of this with a safe and effective vaccine. “
More than 600 children have died in the United States from Covid-19, according to the CDC.
Children are especially vulnerable to covid-19 and flu this winter
Another vaccine that experts have urged to administer to children is the flu.
“Perhaps of particular concern this season, administering flu shots with other vaccines is fine, and co-administering flu shots and covid-19 vaccines is recommended,” said Dr. David Shay, CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases medical official, on a call from CDC’s clinical outreach and communication activity.
Doctors should administer the vaccines to different parts of the body if possible, Shay advised Thursday.
“The recommendation for this year is that vaccines against covid-19 can be administered regardless of when other vaccines are administered, and that would include the simultaneous administration of the vaccine against covid-19 and other vaccines the same day, “he said, adding that the CDC is currently monitoring the effects of co-administration of the coronavirus vaccine.
“In fact, it is encouraged that, if it is useful, and you have someone who is in the consultation to get vaccinated against covid-19, if there is an age-appropriate flu vaccine, you offer it,” he explained.
Health experts have been warning of the possibility that flu and coronavirus infections pose a double threat to already overstretched healthcare resources. But even flu vaccination faces some challenges.
About 44% of Americans plan to get a flu shot, according to a new survey from the National Infectious Diseases Foundation. The survey also revealed that 37% of adults are very or extremely concerned about COVID-19 in themselves or someone in their family, but only 19% said they are concerned about the flu.
“It is even more concerning that the survey found that nearly 1 in 4 (23%), who are at increased risk of flu-related complications, said they did not plan to get vaccinated this season,” the foundation said in a statement.
Vaccination mandates are working, according to a senior health official
The increase in mandates is working in terms of increasing vaccinations, according to authorities.
Murthy, the director general of US Health, told Trends Wide on Thursday that health authorities are seeing an increase.
“On average, organizations that impose vaccination requirements see an increase of more than 20% in the percentage of people who get vaccinated,” Murthy said.
He added that these vaccination requirements are not new to the US, and are intended to keep the public safe.
Currently, 65.8% of people eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
An average of 281,303 people start vaccination each day, according to the CDC. This represents an increase of 31.4% compared to last week and a decrease of 25% compared to the previous month.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said another 2,000 public school employees received the Covid-19 vaccine after the city’s mandate took effect on Sept. 27. In the two weeks before the deadline, there were 20,000 vaccinations, he said.
“This strategy is working,” De Blasio said, adding that all 1,600 public schools are open.
Trends Wide’s Maggie Fox, Virginia Langmaid, Ben Tinker, Michael Nedelman, Lauren Mascarenhas, Jamie Gumbrecht and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.