TUSTIN, CA- November 04: A nine year old girl holds the sleeve of her top as she receives the COVID-...
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It’s Been One Week & Nearly A Million Kids Have Already Gotten Their First Covid Shot

The Surgeon General has urged hesitant parents with questions to seek out credible sources like pediatricians for answers.

by Morgan Brinlee

The White House has estimated that nearly 1 million children aged 5 to 11 have gotten their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the first week of eligibility. And another 700,000 children under the age of 12 reportedly have scheduled vaccine appointments at pharmacies, signaling an encouraging initial response from families to national vaccine efforts. But not all parents have expressed an eagerness to immediately vaccinate their young children, leading top health experts to urge vaccine-hesitant parents with questions to seek out answers from credible sources like pediatricians.

“By the end of the day today, we estimate that over 900,000 kids ages 5 through 11 will have already gotten their first shot,” Jeff Zients, the White House’s Covid-⁠19 response coordinator, said in a Wednesday briefing, noting estimates were based on preliminary data from 20,000 clinics and pharmacies. “And through pharmacies alone, 700,000 additional appointments are already on the calendar.”

According to NPR, the number of 5 to 11-year-olds who’ve received at least one dose of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine could, in truth, be slightly higher than the White House’s estimate as officials do not yet have data from pediatricians’ offices or hospitals. Still, health officials are concerned the number of pediatric vaccinations may soon plateau due to vaccine-hesitant parents, like actor Matthew McConaughey.

Although McConaughey is vaccinated against Covid-19, he told New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin he had no plans to immediately vaccinate his 11-year-old daughter or 8-year-old son as he wanted to “find out more information” first.

“Right now, I’m not vaccinating mine, I’ll tell you that,” McConaughey told Sorkin when asked his thoughts on promoting or mandating Covid-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11. “We go slow on vaccinations anyway, even before Covid. I couldn’t mandate having to vaccinate the younger kids. I still want to find out more information.”

McConaughey later clarified on Instagram that he is not against vaccinating children and stated his oldest child, 13-year-old Levi, had already been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. In his interview with Sorkin, McConaughey had stressed he trusted the science behind vaccines and did not believe in conspiracy theories. Rather, he wanted to know more about Covid-19 vaccines in younger children.

“I want to trust in the science,” he said. “Do I think that there’s any kind of scam or conspiracy theory? Hell no I don’t... There’s not a conspiracy theory on the vaccines. These are scientists trying to do the right thing.”

Recent polls have shown McConaughey isn’t alone. In October, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found a third of parents wanted to “wait and see” how the Covid-19 vaccine was working before making appointments to have their own children vaccinated. And while some have ridiculed McConaughey over his stance, (fellow actor Devon Sawa, for example, joked he “was going to get my kids vaccinated” until he saw McConaughey’s comments. “Just kidding,” he tweeted. “He’s not a doctor.”) leading health experts have sought a different approach to encouraging vaccine-hesitant parents.

When asked about McConaughey’s comments in an interview with CNN, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said it was OK for parents to have questions about Covid-19 vaccines. However, he urged them to actively seek out answers from credible sources. “We know there is nothing more important than the safety of our children and so if you’re a parent out there and you’ve got questions, that’s OK,” Murthy said. “You should ask your questions, you should get them answered. My thing is I really want to make sure people get them answered from credible sources.”

Murthy encouraged hesitant parents like McConaughey to recognize that Covid is not harmless to children. “Many kids have died, sadly. Hundreds of children,” Murthy said. “Thousands have been hospitalized.”

What’s more, Murthy stressed that vaccine trials for young children had shown the Covid-19 vaccines to be both safe and effective. “The vaccines have shown, in these trials for children 5 to 11, they are more than 90% effective in protecting our kids from symptomatic infection,” the surgeon general said. “They’re remarkably safe as well. The kind of side effects they saw were a sore arm, fatigue, headache. They lasted for a day or two and kids were actually left with protection from the virus. So please consider strongly getting your children vaccinated.”