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People aren’t getting their young kids vaccinated against COVID-19 — and many aren’t getting boosters either

Only 4% of children under 5 in Pennsylvania have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

A 3-year-old holds a lollipop after receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination at a Walgreens pharmacy in Lexington, S.C.
A 3-year-old holds a lollipop after receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination at a Walgreens pharmacy in Lexington, S.C.Read moreSean Rayford / AP

COVID cases have increased in Philadelphia about 40% over the past month — and that’s without counting the scores of people testing positive at home as the latest BA.5 omicron variant surges across the country.

Although vaccines are keeping most people out of the hospital, the White House has been urging all Americans to get vaccinated and boosted, including the young children who this summer finally gained access to immunizations.

» READ MORE: Why BA.5 is not a super-virus, and how the vaccines are still the best option against COVID

“If you are vaccinated but have not gotten a booster, this is a really good time to go and get a booster,” said White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha in a briefing last week.

Many in Philadelphia, along with most of the nation, appear to be shrugging off the guidance.

The latest data show that few of America’s youngest have received a dose of the vaccine — and many adults are going without recommended booster shots. These same trends are playing out locally.

Here’s an overview of who is getting vaccinated — and not.

Last week, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that just over a month after their approval, vaccination rates among children under 5 seemingly has peaked at 2.8%. Since the most enthusiastic parents got their kids’ shots, the average number of new doses administered nationally has started declining.

Pennsylvania is doing slightly better. About 28,000 children under 5 have received at least one dose — amounting to 4%.

The slow uptake was predicted. Only 1 in 5 parents of children in this age group wanted to get their child vaccinated right away, according to a May poll by Kaiser Family Foundation. An updated poll released on Tuesday found that 2 in 5 parents for eligible children would “definitely not” vaccinate their child.

The uptick following the approval of the first pediatric vaccines played out differently for children 5 to 11. After vaccines were recommended for the older children in November 2021, about 20% of this age group in Pennsylvania received one dose in the first month, according to CDC data.

Philadelphia is not reporting vaccination data for the youngest children on the city’s or the state’s dashboards. The city is currently collecting data on vaccination among children under 5 and will add the information in the near future, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health said in an email. No date is set for the release.

The city’s reporting has not always been reliable. In March, the Health Department admitted to inflating child vaccination rates by counting thousands of vaccines twice — namely, by not distinguishing between the first and second doses. For weeks, the department touted a child vaccination rate of over 50%. The Inquirer identified discrepancies in the data, which eventually led to the disclosure that the actual vaccinate rate is close to one in three.

The vaccination rate for children ages 5 to 11 has increased only by a few percentage points in the months since — from 34% receiving at least one dose in mid-March to 38% this week.

Philadelphia’s adults also aren’t rushing after booster shots, and the recent wave of the omicron variant BA.5 has seemingly done little to change attitudes. Through July 11, about 36% of Philadelphia residents 18 and older had received a booster. In recent months, vaccination rates have plateaued for all demographic groups, no matter whether they are going without first shots or boosters.

Public health authorities say they still hope to see more people get vaccinated.