Data shows Philadelphia vaccination rates sharply lower among Black kids

"You have hesitancy, you have fear. You have language barriers," said Dr. Melissa Pluguez.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Statistics from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health show noticeable differences by race when it comes to the percentage of children who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In Philadelphia, 90.5% of people age 12 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but less than 24% of children aged 5-11 have gotten at least one dose. And there's a sharp difference when you look at race.

Looking at children age 5-11 in Philadelphia: 35% of Asian children in that age category have gotten at least one dose; 26% of white children have gotten at least one; less than 14% of Hispanic children have received at least one dose; and only 9.5% Black children have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

"You have hesitancy, you have fear. You have language barriers," said Dr. Melissa Pluguez who is a nurse practitioner and medical director of Unidos Contra COVID, which focuses on equitable COVID testing and vaccines for the Hispanic community.

Pluguez points out that other factors can play a role in the disproportionate numbers.

"Poor access to healthcare, hard-to-get pediatrician appointments," she said.

The statistics come as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data on the vaccine's effectiveness and side effects in children. One of the CDC studies shows-in a small group-the Pfizer vaccine was 92% effective in preventing COVID infections in children ages 12-17.

The CDC looked at hospitalizations of kids from July to August, when the delta variant was dominant. They found many of the illnesses that required hospitalization were severe, and two out of three kids hospitalized had underlying medical conditions. Less than 1% of the kids hospitalized were fully vaccinated.

"We're still having the same conversations, now trying to explain to parents to the adults, to those around, aunts, uncles why it's important to have the kids vaccinated," said Pluguez.

The CDC's new study may dispel some parents' worry when it comes to the side effects of the vaccine.

The CDC looked at children ages 12-17 who got the Pfizer vaccine. It was a small study of children in Arizona. The study found, in that group of children, 98% of side effects were not severe. They included symptoms like sore arms and headaches. Still, some parents worry. Pluguez has heard their concerns at the vaccine clinics hosted by Unidos Contra Covid.

"They're still saying if something happens, a rare side effect, I can take that but what if my kid can't?'," she said.

Unidos Contra COVID is one group holding outreach efforts for parents in diverse communities. St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in North Philadelphia has done town hall meetings to answer questions for hesitant parents. The hospital is planning a larger community vaccine clinic for the near future and has hosted vaccine clinics in local schools.
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