Doctors, lawmakers express concern over low COVID booster rates among Southern California children

As COVID-19 cases rise, so does concern about kids getting their booster shots.

And with summer camp and activities upon us, getting boosted is crucial.

Local leaders and pediatricians are trying to get the message out.

Because so few 5 to 11 year-olds have received their COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots, California Assemblymember Miguel Santiago asked his kids to lead by example.

"To put it straight, we are worried. Only a handful of kids at this point of time have gotten their booster. The number is in the hundreds," said Santiago with the 53rd Assembly District which encompasses parts of Downtown and East Los Angeles.

In the two weeks that third shots have been available for this age group, only about 850 in L.A. County have received it. So far, 3% of the fully vaccinated Southern California 5 to 11-year olds are boosted compared to the more than 70% of those fully-vaccinated over 65. This as doctors report pediatric COVID-19 infection rates rise for the seventh consecutive week

"On a random basis it can take a healthy child, teenager or a young adult and make them very sick," said Dr. Ernie Guzman, an Adventist Health Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist with White Memorial.

While pediatric case rates are still low overall, Guzman said each week he's treating more children with serious COVID complications. He's worried many parents forget summer camps and travel are around the corner.

"There's still exposure and we have holiday events all throughout. We've got graduations, proms and quinceaneras here in LA," he said.

The latest data reveals just 30% of 5-11 year-olds are fully-vaccinated in SoCal, compared to more than 80% of those over 50.

"We're doing ourselves a disservice by delaying getting the vaccine and in this case now we are also delaying the booster. It is safe. And it's time," Guzman said.

While Santiago's brave 5-year-old Brielle was not smiling as much when she got her booster, her dad says she understands why these shots are so important.

"It's real life, my little girl cried a little bit but she's happy. Please I urge you from one parent to another. Strongly consider getting your kids vaccinated," Santiago said.
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