California Governor Gavin Newsom Announced this week that an additional 400,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been ordered by the state, encouraging them to be used on children following FDA approval for the under 5 age group last week.
According to an announcement from the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, a scientific review group consisting of California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington state, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been found to be safe and effective for children as young as 6 months old. With the announcement coming only a few days after FDA approval of the vaccine for those between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old, it ensured that California would be one of the few states to see a large rollout for that age group.
A statement from Gov. Newsom confirmed that California had pre-ordered 400,000 doses for such an approved vaccine expansion at over 8,500 sites across the state.
“Vaccines are safe, effective, and widely accessible – we’re strongly encouraging parents to protect their kids from COVID-19 with these vaccines, and California has pre-ordered nearly 400,000 doses that can be administered at the more than 8,500 vaccine sites throughout the state,” Gov. Newsom said this week.
Other Governor’s echoed the same sentiment in the statement, including Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, who added, “Many families have been waiting for the opportunity to vaccinate their youngest members and I am happy that day has come. Families can have the peace of mind of the thorough review process these vaccines have gone through, but I encourage families to speak to a trusted health care provider about any questions they have. Vaccines protect against serious illness, and I offer my thanks to all those who continue to serve on the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to confirm the recommendations and guidance for COVID-19 vaccines.”
The last major age group expansion had come in November 2021 for children ages 5-11, following FDA approval the previous month. Unlike the 400,000 doses that will begin to be distributed soon, the federal government had given 1.2 million doses to the state for the opening of the 5-11 age group, largely to help prevent COVID-19 in schools.
California proceeded to follow through on a vaccine mandate for all students in grades K-12, but in April delayed that from going into effect until at least July 2023 due to increased opposition and a then-lack of FDA approval. A bill to allow teens to take the vaccine without parental consent is also pushing for greater vaccination rates for those under 18, although that bill too also has significant opposition in Sacramento.
And that increased opposition and hesitancy could largely hinder the rollout of the 400,000 doses. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, only 18% of parents in the U.S. said that they would vaccinate their children who are under 5 once the FDA approved the vaccine. Even if the figure factored in the 38% of parents who said that they would “wait and see” before vaccinating their under 5 kids, that still means close to half of all parents are against vaccinating the very young.
“For many, even with the FDA and now the Western states saying that it is ok, a lot of parents remain unsure,” Erika Montoya, a nurse who has been administering COVID-19 vaccines since 2020 in the LA area, told the Globe on Monday. “And you have to understand, for many parents, especially ones I’ve talked to, it’s not because of any distrust. It’s largely because they see no need for it. They’ve been told for so long that kids can’t get it or are way less likely to get it that either don’t want to give it to them if it is not needed or will wait to see if the age group starts to contract it more.”
“And this is what the FDA and California and other places pushing the under 5 vaccination don’t get. They’ve been telling the opposite for so long, and people have seen the virus become endemic that most are thinking ‘why bother?’ People should absolutely get vaccinated. It may be less effective, but it is still very effective against severe cases of COVID-19. But again, that leads to the problem of how do you convince parents to vaccinate. Some that young do get COVID, but it’s nothing like the adult population.”
“Honestly, California should focus more on looking at vulnerable areas. I have the feeling that a lot of those 400,000 doses will remain unused, especially with no K-12 mandate this year.”
Parents who want their child under 5 vaccinated can begin to do so soon following the latest rollout.