The COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for children ages 5 to 11 nearly six weeks ago, yet a new nationwide poll reveals a majority of parents are still reluctant to get their kids vaccinated.
Doctors say it's a cause for concern as the winter season continues.
In the last two weeks of November, Los Angeles County health officials found unvaccinated adolescents were nine times more likely to get a COVID infection than those who had been vaccinated. During that same time, 10 kids between the ages of five to 17 ended up in local hospitals.
"We're seeing this horrible trend of hospitalizations in kids because of COVID-19," said Dr. Ilan Shapiro, the medical director of health education at AltaMed.
The poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed about a third of parents who have children between 5 and 11 years old want to "wait and see" before getting their kids vaccinated. Roughly, another third of parents reported saying they definitely don't want their kids to get the vaccine.
Many parents said they still don't feel they have enough information about potential rare side effects.
"Right now, from the 5- to 11-year-old group, we have given more than four million doses already," said Shapiro. "We have not seen one case of myocarditis or inflammation of the heart."
About half of the parents who participated in the poll said their 12- to 17-year-old children have received at least one dose.
On Thursday, U.S. health authorities said that 16- and 17-year-olds should get a booster dose of Pfizer's COVID vaccine once they're six months past their last shot.
"We're facing a variant that has the potential to require more immunity to be protected," said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
As the winter break approaches, doctors fear students who follow school safety protocols will be much more relaxed when gathering outside the classroom.
They said that's why getting children who are eligible vaccinated is a priority.
"It's very important for parents to understand that it's okay to be afraid," said Shapiro. "It's OK to protect their kids. We all want the same thing, but it's very important right now to protect them to get more information."
Pediatricians remain parents' most trusted source of information. Still, fewer than half of parents polled said they've had a discussion with their child's health care provider about the COVID vaccine.