By Soumya Karlamangla
New York Times
Since COVID-19 shots became available to 5- to 11-year-olds a little over a month ago, more than 578,000 children in California have gotten at least one dose.
That at first appears to be a fairly ordinary statistic: California has vaccinated 16.4% of its 5- to 11-year-olds, roughly the same share that has been vaccinated nationwide in that age group.
But the local figures belie a complicated reality. Vaccination rates for the youngest eligible Californians vary widely across the state — and far more than they do for other age groups.
In San Francisco, 37% of 5- to 11-year-olds have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, more than double the rate in Los Angeles County, according to state data.
Even more extreme: In Marin County, more than 58% of 5- to 11-year-olds are partially or fully vaccinated. In Kings County in the San Joaquin Valley, that figure is less than 5%.
The numbers reflect an existing divide in COVID-19 vaccination rates and pandemic precautions across California, as well as parents’ heightened fears when it comes to vaccinating their children.
Still, Californians who have sought out vaccines for their 5- to 11-year-olds say they feel immense relief and an added layer of safety in the holiday season. Here are some stories readers shared about kids getting their shots:
“My 7-year-old, Paxton, recently completed his second COVID vaccination shot at a retail pharmacy in Napa. He was a little tentative about getting a shot. Upon sitting down, he asked the pharmacist, ‘Are you a professional?’ The kind man replied with seriousness, ‘Yes, I am. And here is my process. …’
“Of course, Paxton didn’t follow the pharmacist’s process and watched the needle go into his arm. He said it hurt but shed no tears.” — Leslie Wong, Napa
“My 6-year-old, Jackson, has been asking us for nearly a year to get the vaccine! Though we live in sunny San Diego, Jackson loves to ski, and because he’s now vaccinated we can spend New Year’s skiing in Aspen with his grandparents.” — Julia Pautz, San Diego
“My 11-year-old daughter was vaccinated at a county vaccination center in what used to be a Victoria Secret’s store. I’m still laughing. Life can be hilarious. Thank goodness for that.” — Lisa Anderson Shaffer, Marin County
“With his parents and his grandmother having had a booster shot (plus his first vaccine shot done), my son was able to spend Thanksgiving with his grandmother and older, fully vaccinated cousins, even though none of the three households live in the same city.” — Gabriela Hernandez-Lepe, Menlo Park
“The kids (and us too!) are excited to celebrate Christmas Eve as they have every year except last — a giant family party at their grandparents’ house.
“Cousins are everywhere, Santa comes to visit, and there’s always too much food. Life moved on throughout the pandemic — babies were born, tweens became teenagers, there were high school and college graduations, new relationships blossomed, and we also unfortunately lost loved ones along the way. But we haven’t been able to celebrate or grieve collectively as we would have two years ago, and being vaccinated means that we can have that again.”— Stephanie Setzer, Windsor
“My 5-year-old son, Zander, was the first child in his kindergarten class to get vaccinated and he was overjoyed.
“Immediately after getting his shot, he told me that his top goals were to (1) see friends that he hasn’t seen since the beginning of the pandemic, and (2) visit New York so that he can meet the Ninja Turtles (in real life). I am guessing that one of those goals will be a bit easier to realize than the other.
“Because of the vaccine, Zander was able to spend Thanksgiving with his grandparents, aunt, uncles and cousins — something he hasn’t done since the beginning of the delta surge. I was hoping that this vaccine would allow us to have a birthday party for Zander in December and also continue to celebrate the winter holidays with extended family.
“I am hoping that omicron doesn’t ruin the joy and freedom that Zander has so longed for and is on the cusp of being able to enjoy.” — Jennifer Stark, Berkeley
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.