Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra promoted COVID-19 vaccines for the youngest Americans Wednesday but said the most powerful advocates for the shots aren’t in Washington.
He said the best champions are doctors and other trusted voices in the community, such as the parents of a recently vaccinated — and chatty — toddler named Dalia who joined the secretary at a Connecticut clinic.
“My message to everyone when it comes to vaccination is: Talk to the folks you trust. That’s it. Don’t talk to politicians, talk to the folks you trust,” Mr. Becerra said at Fair Haven Community Health Care in New Haven. “Talk to a pediatrician, come to a place like this health center.”
Mr. Becerra said that HHS will be partnering with the National Diaper Bank Network, a nonprofit that distributes diapers to families in need, to spread the word about COVID-19 vaccines that were authorized for children, ages 6 months to 4 years, about two weeks ago.
The secretary said 5 million of the pediatric-dose vaccines have been delivered to the states, including 55,000 in Connecticut.
“We’ve got more,” he said.
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Mr. Becerra did not say how many shots have made it into the arms of the new age group.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t added the group to its dashboard, as clinics and states gather the information and report to the federal agency. The administration has pledged to disclose the data as soon as it is available.
Immunization managers said they expect an early rush on pediatric vaccines followed by a drawn-out effort to promote vaccination when parents bring their young kids for routine visits.
Polling and anecdotes suggest interest in the vaccine begins to drop off below age 12. Only about a third of the age 5-11 group in the U.S. is fully vaccinated.
Biden officials are performing a balancing act, making it clear they want to see as many Americans vaccinated as possible while admitting that parents might need to hear from local voices instead.
There is a perception that vaccination is unnecessary for the youngest age group because they account for 0.1% of deaths from the pandemic, while the elderly have been hit hard.
“We’re quite fortunate that it is low risk, but we need to remember that it’s not ‘no-risk,’” said Dr. Jody Terranova, vice president and president-elect of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, at Mr. Becerra’s event.
Federal officials say 400 children, age 4 and younger, have died from the disease and tens of thousands have been hospitalized. There is also the threat of persistent symptoms, known as long COVID, or multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children who get sick.
Mr. Becerra greeted David Weinreb and Marlene Edelstein, who got their toddler, Dalia, vaccinated on June 27.
The couple said they trusted their pediatrician’s recommendation and the safety profile of vaccines that use messenger-RNA, a groundbreaking technology that hadn’t been used widely before this pandemic.
Dalia made her voice heard throughout Mr. Becerra’s event with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat, drawing chuckles from the room.
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.