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In two months since vaccine has been available, fewer than 10% of Oklahoma kids ages 5-11 are vaccinated

Owen Malloy, Jeanne Bailey
Nam Y. Huh
Owen Malloy, 9, receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 years from Lurie Children's hospital registered nurse Jeanne Bailey at Lurie Children's hospital Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in Chicago. Health officials hailed shots for kids ages 5 to 11 as a major breakthrough after more than 18 months of illness, hospitalizations, deaths and disrupted education.

Though vaccines for kids 5 and up have been available for months, less than half of Oklahoma children have gotten vaccinated for COVID-19.

The numbers are particularly low for children ages 5-11 who have only been able to be vaccinated since November. Fewer than 30,000 of the state’s 376,215 kids in that age range are fully immunized. That’s 7.5%.

The picture for kids age 12-18 is slightly better - roughly a third are vaccinated or 106,218 out of 320,490. They’ve been able to get vaccinated for longer.

The figures come from the state’s first weekly epidemiological report of 2022, released Wednesday afternoon.

Schools across Oklahoma hosted vaccination clinics for their students, but still intake is low.

Oklahoma’s State Health Department interim director Keith Reed says the state has found the best way to up vaccination numbers is just ensure it’s available when parents are ready.

“Ultimately, it's going to come down to those individual decisions, family decisions when it comes down to the kids,” Reed said. “We want to see those that are eligible get vaccinated. We know that it provides the best protection against COVID 19.”

And as kids come back to school after the holiday break, vaccination is the best tool for them to prevent COVID-19.

Reed said that the department will continue encouraging vaccines, masks and handwashing. Additionally, the health department will help handle active cases and outbreaks in schools. But ultimately, it’s going to continue to be tough to handle the pandemic in schools.

“It's just a recurring theme that there's not a good answer and one that will resolve all this, and we just continue to push the mitigation measures we have,” Reed said.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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