Before COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out for children under the age of 5 back in June, many parents had been calling for those shots to become available for young kids.
But new data looks like some parents' stance may have changed.
Massachusetts ranks third nationwide, with 11% of those kids getting at least one dose. Washington D.C. took the top spot, with nearly 18% and Vermont came in at second place. Nationwide, only 5% of children under 5 have been vaccinated.
Hyde Park mom Shandl Williams said her 4-year-old daughter Elliah will be getting her COVID-19 vaccine soon – she has an appointment already scheduled.
"I'd rather be safe than sorry," said Williams. "We have asthma in our family so we’re high risk for catching certain things. COVID was a big issue with my Nana."
But Meredith Bonner said while her 6-year-old son is vaccinated, she’s going to wait it out to vaccinate her 2-year-old, Marshall.
"We haven’t vaccinated our little one yet," said Bonner, a Roxbury resident. "He just goes to a babysitter so he’s close to home and still in our bubble. We’re not feeling anxious or in a hurry to do that."
Pediatricians say they did expect some hesitancy, and surveys predicted that only around one in five parents would actually plan on getting children in that age bracket vaccinated. The numbers so far are lower, though, than many pediatricians expected by this point. The vaccination rates for these young children are lower than any other age group in the state.
As a result, some doctors say they've actually had to throw some of these vaccines out because they're not being used.
"I was expecting it to be a slow uptake," said Dr. Alexy Arauz Boudreau. "I wasn’t expecting it to be this slow."
Boudreau, chief for pediatrics for primary care at MGH for Children, says her message to parents is the vaccine is safe, and COVID-19 can be quite severe in some young patients.
"Parents are concerned," said Boudreau. "Anytime that a parent has to make a choice whether to put something in their child’s body, they always want to think twice to make sure the risk to benefit ratio is an accurate one."
But there’s been such a lack of interest from parents with kids in this age group that some vials are being thrown out with doses still remaining.
"When you open up a vial with 10 doses you need to use all 10 doses within 12 hours," said Dr. Wayne Altman, chair of family medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. "Use them or lose them."
Altman says because kids aren’t coming in big numbers, too many doses get wasted.
"It still feels not great to waste vaccine doses especially with an awareness that there are other countries in other parts of the world where there still is a scarcity of access to COVID vaccine," said Altman.
Doctors are hoping that as kids in this age group start heading to daycare or pre-K or kindergarten, parents will be more likely to get their children vaccinated in the next few weeks.
"Parents are worried about the long-term effects of the vaccine," said Dr. Robyn Riseberg, founder of Boston Community Pediatrics. "They’re worried that the studies were smaller numbers than the adult studies."
Riseberg says parents are eager to have a conversation.
"I can’t tell you how many times parents have come in and said I just needed to talk to you about it," said Riseberg. "I just needed to hear that you think we should do this."
If you're thinking about the vaccine for your young children and still feel hesitant about it, pediatricians are recommending you go ahead and contact them to ask your questions.