(WFXR) – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is nearing the point of authorizing a COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 12-15, which would be the first group of children to become eligible for the vaccine.
Even with studies showing that children are less likely to experience severe COVID-19 symptoms, compared to adults, a small group in that age range may develop serious illness that leads to hospitalization and possibly even death.
The risk of severe disease is higher among Black and Hispanic adolescents, compared to their white counterparts.
A recent study issued by Kaiser Family Foundation has examined the size and composition of adolescents between the ages of 12-15 by using 2019 American Community Survey data to help inform vaccination efforts to research this population which found the following:
- Nearly 17 million adolescents, between 12-15 years old are in the United States and would be eligible for the vaccine.
- Nearly half of those are people of color, including one in four who are Hispanic, 13.4% are Black and 4.8% are Asian.
- More than one-third (36.2%) of adolescents live in a family with incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, including 15.4% below poverty and 20.8% between 100-200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
“If the FDA authorizes and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends COVID-19 vaccination for 12-15-year-olds, it will represent an important first step in reaching children more generally in the U.S. and increasing population immunity, but progress will hinge on outreach efforts and equitable and expeditious distribution strategies.
Reaching adolescents will likely take time, outreach, and effective communication to inform pediatricians, parents and adolescents about the vaccines as well as strategies to reduce barriers to access. Parents in particular will play a critical role in the success of these efforts, as our latest survey finds that 41% of parents of children ages 12-15 say they will definitely not get their children vaccinated or will only do so if required by school. These attitudes may shift once a vaccine is approved for teens and they begin receiving it, as it has for adults. Prioritizing equity and reducing access barriers that disproportionately affect people of color and those who are low income will be particularly important for reaching adolescents given the diversity of this population and that Black and Hispanic people have faced gaps in vaccinations so far.
The administration has indicated that, in addition to existing COVID-19 vaccine distribution channels, vaccines would be given directly to pediatricians to vaccinate their patients. Data from prior to the pandemic show that the large majority (96%) of children had a regular source of health care. However, analysis since the onset of the pandemic found declines in use of regular and preventive care among children, including declines in vaccination rates. This likely reflects parents delaying care due to concerns about potential exposure to coronavirus or due to cost if they experienced negative financial impacts from the pandemic. Because the vaccine is available for free regardless of insurance status, cost should not be a barrier to getting the vaccine. However, outreach to parents to explain that the vaccine is free will be important. Schools may also play an important role, including in serving as vaccine sites for children and their families.
Success in reaching this cohort will have important implications overall, for both future efforts to vaccinate those at even at younger ages and for the overall effort to vaccinate as many people in the U.S as possible.Statement from the COVID-19 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation
Get a link to the full study by clicking here.