Jacksonville infectious disease expert calls COVID vaccination rates among kids ‘pathetically low’

Florida data shows vaccination rate for people ages 12 to 19 is 35%

Florida data shows vaccination rate for people ages 12 to 19 is 35%.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As some hospitals are seeing pediatric patients with COVID-19, a Jacksonville infectious disease expert is calling the COVID-19 vaccination rates among children pathetic.

“The rates are pathetically low,” said Dr. Mobeen Rathore, the chief of pediatric infectious disease and immunology for Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “I think why they are not getting it is beyond me.”

The Florida Department of Health’s most recent COVID-19 data shows young people ages 12 to 19 are 35% vaccinated -- the lowest of any age group.

At Wolfson Children’s Hospital, there were 13 children with COVID-19, five of whom were being treated in the pediatric intensive care unit, at last check.

With only weeks until the start of the school year, debate is swirling over child vaccinations. Some parents and grandparents say they have no intention of vaccinating children against COVID-19, even with a spike in local cases, which include cases of the delta variant.

“None of my grandchildren will be getting the vaccine because, No. 1, it’s not FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved,” said grandmother Betsy Ponte.

Ponte said her family full of medical professionals and lawyers cited concerns she’s read about over rare health effects.

“The science needs to be proven over time with the proper protocols, and that has not happened yet, and until it does, I think people should slow their roll,” she said.

When asked about whether her grandchildren would show up for in-person learning on the first day of school, she said: “Oh absolutely. Without masks, by the way.”

Other parents are on the opposite side of this debate.

Caitlin Byers is a local mother who works for Baptist Health, and two of her three children are old enough and got the vaccine.

“We didn’t have any issues with it -- just arm pain, some fatigue,” Byers said.

Byers’ youngest child isn’t old enough to get the shot.

“We’re still advocating for them to wear masks. My youngest will absolutely be wearing a mask because she’s not vaccinated,” Byers said. “But my older two, my daughter especially, she feels more comfortable wearing one, and we fully support that.”

News4Jax brought up Rathore what many parents have expressed -- that the vaccine has not been given full FDA approval.

“There is an FDA approval. It just happens to be an EUA (emergency use authorization), when we are dealing with a crisis, a deadly disease, a pandemic,” Rathore said. “The vaccines are well studied, given to a billion people. This is a safe vaccine.”

This debate right now only involves children age 12 and older, as children under age 12 aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine.

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