After five weeks of being eligible, just 5.9 percent of children aged 5 to 11 in Alabama are vaccinated against COVID-19, ranking near dead last in the nation in a recent report.
That’s well below the 16.7 percent of 5 to 11-year-olds nationally who had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose as of Dec. 5, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation published Wednesday.
Vaccination rates among those younger children vary by as much as 40 percentage points across the country, according to the report. Vermont had the highest percentage of vaccinated 5 to 11-year-olds at 45.6 as of Dec. 5, and West Virginia came in last, at 3.6 percent.
Alabama ranked 47th in the nation in vaccination of children 5 to 11, and 45th in vaccinated adults 18 and older.
Those younger children were much more likely to be vaccinated in Northern states, while the South lags in vaccinations. Eight of the ten states with the lowest vaccine coverage among 5-11 year-olds are in the South, according to the report.
The percentage of vaccinated younger children in individual states tracks closely with the percentage of vaccinated adults in those states. Six of the ten states that rank the lowest in vaccination of children – Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Wyoming, Tennessee, and Georgia – are also in the bottom ten rankings for adult vaccinations, the report reads.
“The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) reports that persons ages 5-17 continue to represent over 15 percent of COVID-19 cases reported in the state,” Dr. Karen Landers, assistant state health officer with the Alabama Department of Public Health, wrote in a message to APR on Wednesday.
“Since there is now a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine product approved for this age group, it is important that parents take advantage of the opportunity to reduce COVID-19 in their children by having them vaccinated,” Landers continued.
Currently, only a lower-dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has received emergency use authorization for children aged 5 to 11.
While children tend to have better outcomes after contracting COVID, severe illness, long-term health impacts and death are still possible. COVID-19 is the eighth leading cause of death for children, Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of UAB and Children’s of Alabama’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, said recently.
Researchers are still trying to learn why South Africa is seeing a surge in the COVID hospitalizations of children under five. The omicron variant was first detected in South Africa and is surging there as well.
Dr. Suzanne Judd, a professor and epidemiologist at UAB, told reporters Tuesday that it’s possible the surge in those child hospitalizations is because the omicron variant is so much more transmissible, and is spreading across all ages in greater numbers.
“All these young children being admitted, most of them, the parents have not been vaccinated either. So I think, certainly the value of vaccination in the adults, protecting the children in the homes, is something to keep in mind,” Dr. Waasila Jassat of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases told CBS News.
There have been 16,199 confirmed COVID deaths in Alabama.