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By Aaron E. Carroll
Dr. Carroll is the chief health officer of Indiana University and often writes on health policy.
You would think that vaccination sites would have been swamped with parents rushing to vaccinate their young children against Covid after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccines for the under-5 age group in June. But as of early August, around 5 percent of eligible children under 5 had received the first dose of the vaccine series. Worse, the number of them being immunized has been decreasing.
Some may argue that it’s harder to get their young children vaccinated because not all drugstores will give shots to babies and toddlers. But the fact that uptake is still so low, even though pediatricians and family physicians can provide them, suggests a lack of urgency. Moreover, only 30 percent of those age 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, and vaccines for that group have been authorized since fall 2021 and are available anywhere shots are given.
The best way to end the pandemic and keep everyone safe is vaccination. Immunization is the only intervention that gives the benefits of extended immunity without the dangers of infection for all ages. It’s what we’ve done to combat — and even eradicate — a host of diseases that used to ravage humanity.
What does it say, then, that most parents have not vaccinated their children against Covid? Even if, as the data would suggest, they’ve vaccinated themselves at much higher rates?
I fear that it’s indicative of Americans’ loss of trust in the public health system of the United States. Much of that is because of misinformation and disinformation spread about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations. But some of it is due to inconsistent and often suboptimal science communication by public health experts.
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