It’s a slow start to vaccinating children 5-11 years old against COVID in Snohomish County. Not because parents are reluctant to get their kids the shot, County Chief Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters told reporters during a Tuesday media briefing. It’s because there is not yet enough vaccine for children anywhere in the state.
Spitters acknowledged that the first few weeks of getting kids vaccinated can be “very frustrating and disappointing; we’re certainly hearing these frustrations.” In the week since the vaccine was approved for children, the county reports ‘hundreds to maybe thousands’ have gotten a first dose. With 75,000 eligible, and a two-shot process, that means the county could need 150,000 doses if every child participates. Last week, it got a total — for all residents — of 16,000 vaccine doses.
It will be weeks before all those parents who want the vaccine to get just the first dose for their children. And Spitters said if 5- to 11-year-olds mirror the vaccination rate for teenagers, then the coverage will only be 50-60%. Officials are hoping that level will be higher for children, he added.
Why is the start so slow? The county had no definite answer. But the same thing happened when vaccines were first rolled out early this year. The supply chain was not ready for the demand. “There’s a lot of pent-up frustration,” said Spitters, coming at the same time as a huge demand. Click here for the Snohomish Health District list of providers and locations for shots for children ages 5-11.
Spitters said the county is “not seeing much pushback” about the shots for children. “There is some concern,” he added, about “mandates for kids in schools; that’s not something that’s in my hands.” He reminded people that any vaccine mandate for schools would have to come from the state.
Some questions have been raised about potential problems with COVID vaccines for children. One of them has to do with myocarditis, which causes inflammation of the heart muscle, and can cause scarring of tissues and weaken the heart .
But Spitters pointed out that of the 3,ooo children (5-11) in the national COVID vaccine test, there “were no cases of myocarditis due to the vaccine; there is no signal that myocarditis is going to be a problem in kids.”
Asked whether the county would follow the lead of King County and require proof of vaccination in restaurants and other businesses, County Executive Dave Somers was blunt: “Not at this point; we are not considering any type of mandate, I think that’s adequate.” Reporters also wanted to know how the county would implement any federal mandates requiring employers with at least 100 workers to get vaccinated. That, said Somers, is still tied up in the courts. “We’re waiting for the state to (look at the federal rules) and decide what to do. We will implement whatever the rules turn out to be.”
The county said this was the last weekly COVID briefing update. From now on, the briefings will be held every other week, with the next one scheduled for Nov. 23.
— By Bob Throndsen