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First day of school, vaccination rates for the youngest in San Diego still lag behind

Children get vaccinated for COVID-19
Nicholas McVicker
A boy receiving his COVID-19 vaccines at Rady Children's Hospital on June 21, 2022

On Monday thousands of young, new students attended school for the first time. California's Transitional Kindergarten program is rolling out this year, and that means 4-year-old children are learning on campuses across the county. Very few in their age group have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, however.

According to data released Aug. 25 from San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, only 9% of children between 6 months and 4 years old and 47% of kids age 5 to 11 have been vaccinated.

Dr. Mark Sawyer, infectious disease specialist at Rady Children's Hospital and a professor of clinical pediatrics at UC San Diego, joined Midday Edition on Monday. He said the low vaccination rate is discouraging.


"We have been very careful to (observe) the safety data and the effectiveness data and the risk of COVID-19 in children. And when you go through that, you come to the conclusion that the best decision that parents can make is to vaccinate their children," said Sawyer, who is a member of the Food and Drug Administration's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee that reviewed the COVID-19 vaccines. "But there are many parents who still have questions and that is reflected in these low vaccination rates."

None of the school districts in San Diego County have mask mandates this fall. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or any other virus, Sawyer advises parents to teach their children to wash their hands, not to share things like water bottles and to keep them home when they're sick. And he said, in the case of COVID-19, test them to make sure they don't have have it before sending them to school.

"And get the vaccine," Sawyer said. "If you have questions about the vaccine talk to your children's physician and get your questions answered."

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