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More Than 5,000 Louisiana Kids Have Received A COVID-19 Vaccine As Officials And Doctors Push For More

Phoebe Jones WWNO
A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. March 4, 2020.

Thousands of children have received one shot of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, one week after the state opened up vaccinations to kids aged 12 to 15.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said 5,275 children in that demographic have had a vaccine shot to date. There have been 50,041 COVID-19 cases and seven deaths among children 17 years and younger in Louisiana since the coronavirus pandemic broke out last spring.

“It is clear the Pfizer vaccine in individuals 12 to 15 is safe, effective, and it really protects not just that child, but the family as well,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state health officer.

Kanter joined the governor at a press conference on Thursday to promote vaccination among youths, as did Dr. Theron McCormick, a pediatrician and immunologist at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.

McCormick highlighted the roughly 3.9 million children who’ve contracted the coronavirus and the roughly 16,000 to 17,000 hospitalized. An estimated 308 children have died of COVID-19, according to state-reported data analyzed by the American Association of Pediatrics.

For communities of color, the risk to children is dramatically elevated.

“About 75 percent of those children who died have been children of color. That's a big deal,” McCormick said. “It has been disproportionately affecting our communities of color.”

In a report released in March, the AAP noted that disparities in race among children infected by the coronavirus were likely tied to the fact that their family members were more likely to be forced to continue to work early in the pandemic as essential workers. Research has repeatedly shown that socioeconomic factors put people of color at greater risk of COVID-19.

State epidemiologist Theresa Sokol became the latest government official to publicize her own child’s willingness to be vaccinated — along with Dr. Jennifer Avengo of the New Orleans Health Department and New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell. In Sokol’s case, her 12-year-old daughter, Elise, is a participant in the Moderna trial for children.

“I knew the sooner she got the vaccine, the sooner she would be safe,” Sokol said of her daughter.

“It was actually a really interesting experience for me because it's never really something that I've ever done before,” Elise said. “But I was really excited to try this because I knew that it would have been really important to researchers and scientists and doctors.”

Her arm was sore and red after the first shot, and she felt sick after the second dose, she said.

“I still feel really grateful that I was able to contribute to this really important study,” she said.

Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.

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