RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina ordered just under 200,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines specifically for children younger than five, state public health officials said.

But with more than half a million kids that age living here, it raises a key question: Is that enough?

At the rate we’re going, the answer actually might be yes.

In the three weeks in which children between six months and five years have been eligible to get the vaccine, the pace so far has been the slowest of any age group.

Only two percent of those kids under five have gotten at least one of the three doses required for full vaccination, according to data updated Wednesday by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

(Source: NCDHHS)

“I was hoping that was going to be a little bit higher,” said Dr. Michael Smith, a pediatrician and pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Duke University School of Medicine.

That’s a glacial pace compared even to the next oldest age group: Three weeks into the rollout for kids between the ages of five and 11 in the fall, a total of 11 percent of them had gotten their first shot.

“I think the older you get, the more likely you are to have received your vaccine,” Smith said.

A total of 14,474 children under five have gotten their first shot — but that running total only increased by about 4,000 during the past week.

There are still 13 counties that have yet to record a single dose for a child in that youngest age bracket, NCDHHS data show.

More than half of the providers who are signed up to give those youngest children the vaccine have yet to give even a single dose.

The state ordered a total of 199,500 doses, agency spokeswoman Summer Tonizzo. At three doses per child, that’s the equivalent of 66,500 full vaccinations — or, about one-eighth of the roughly 500,000 children in that age bracket.

Smith says that “does not seem like an unreasonable starting point, you know, from a not ordering too much vaccine” standpoint, given how slow the vaccination effort has gone so far.

Tonizzo says more than 695 providers across the state have signed up to receive and give vaccine doses to those kids.

As of Monday, she said, 456 providers have given at least one dose in that population — or, just under two thirds.

The vaccine also is available in another 304 pharmacies through the federal supply. 

But how did NCDHHS arrive at that number of doses to order?

The agency declined an interview request from CBS 17 News to ask that very question.

It’s a tough needle to thread. 

Order too many doses, and run the risk of excess waste. Too few, and raise questions about supply — and perhaps unwittingly send the message that you lack the confidence that enough parents will get their youngest children vaccinated.

“This is kind of the complete opposite of where we were when the vaccine first came out,” Smith said. “We didn't have enough vaccine to give to people, and you had to be really high risk or a health care provider.”

CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state, and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.