RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Another COVID-19 booster bust could be brewing — this time among the youngest children who are allowed to get them.
A little over 5 percent of North Carolina’s fully vaccinated kids between the ages of 5 and 11 have gotten a booster dose, according to a CBS17.com data analysis.
Booster shots have been available to children in that age bracket for nearly a month — the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came May 19 — but in that time the push to get that extra shot to them has been slow.
With kids wrapping up the school year, doctors hope the pace picks up.
“It’s a good time, with an increasing case burden, to make sure your kid has a successful summer,” said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist at the Duke University School of Medicine. “I think it’s as simple as that.”
The Triangle is home to the four counties with the highest rates — but only in Orange County are more than 10 percent of kids in that group boosted.
Dr. Erica Pettigrew, a family practice physician and associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, expects those numbers to rise
“I think that you’ll see over time, more and more kids getting their boosters,” she said.
The analysis of data updated Wednesday found four counties that have yet to record a single booster dose in the 5-11 age group. And in 84 counties, fewer than 1 percent of kids there have received a booster.
Younger people are much less likely to have been either partially or fully vaccinated than those who are older. Full vaccination rates range from 98 percent for the oldest North Carolinians (75 and over) to just 25 percent for the youngest eligible.
And an even slimmer fraction of those youngest kids are boosted, the data analysis found.
NCDHHS does not break those booster numbers down by that particular age group, so figuring out those rates requires a little math.
The state counts 3.42 million boosters for people 5 and older, and 3.41 million for people 12 and over — and simple subtraction leads to 13,130 boosters for those in the 5-to-11 age group.
Pettigrew says the counties doing the best so far tend to be the ones with the most “early adopters” who come from scientific backgrounds and “understand how great this is.”
A total of 12.1 percent of all Orange County children between 5-11 have gotten a booster. Durham (5.2 percent) is second, followed by Wake (4.3 percent) and Chatham (3.6 percent).
“They want their child to get that protection,” Pettigrew said. “And so they are first in line to get their child that protection. And then there are other people who are likely waiting for well child visits at their pediatricians or at their family doctor's office to discuss it with their child's medical professional.”
“I think it's not an accident that those are the areas that you see some of the highest rates.”
It’s hard to compare the overall booster rollout to the one specific to grade-school-aged kids because NCDHHS only began publishing its running count of booster shots in late November — two months after opening up eligibility to people 65 and older and those younger but at high risk.
Pettigrew says the pattern is similar to the initial vaccinations for those children.
“In general, we see the first week or so of people who really want to be first, who have been counting down the days, who have been eagerly awaiting for the CDC recommendations,” she said. “So as we have seen every other time that eligibility changes and increases over the pandemic, we see the first week or two, we tend to have a lot of demand and then it may plateau as people decide what they want to do.”
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.