Is NC really better at vaccinating the youngest children against COVID than other states?

RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – The push to vaccinate children under the age of 5 against COVID-19 in North Carolina is not exactly off to a quick start.

But are we doing better than our neighboring states and the rest of the country, as the country’s top doctor said?

THE CLAIM: In a speech Thursday before a monthly meeting of local health directors, state health director Dr. Betsey Tilson, North Carolina is “above the national average and has the highest immunization rates for this age group in the southeastern United States.”

THE FACTS: Actually, she’s right – but that depends on how you define the Southeast.

This week’s update from the state Department of Health and Human Services shows that 3 percent of children under the age of 5 have received at least one dose of the vaccine since it became available in mid-June.

That’s a slow start, as CBS 17 previously reported. But it exceeds the national average.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just under 3 percent of children in this age group nationwide have received a dose. The CDC counts 19 million children under the age of 5 and says about 544,000 of them have received an injection.

So your national claim is correct.

What about the regional?

It wasn’t entirely clear which states she included in the Southeast, but it’s likely she was referring to the 10 US Department of Health and Human Services regions.

(Source: USDHHS)

This federal agency places North Carolina in an eight-state region in the southeastern corner of the continental United States

CBS 17 reviewed the COVID immunization dashboard for each state in the region because the CDC does not release state-by-state breakdowns of those immunizations for this age group.

And of these states, North Carolina has the highest immunization coverage for children under the age of 5.

In fact, CBS 17 found that among the six other states that publish these rates for this age group—not Mississippi—none has even reached 2 percent.

The best remainder was Georgia (1.8 percent), followed by South Carolina (1.2 percent). Both Alabama (0.6 percent) and Tennessee (0.1 percent) lag far behind.

But when you include Virginia in your definition of the Southeast, Tilson’s statement becomes less true.

In this condition, 5.4 percent of children of this age received an injection.

The bigger problem with the rate in the state is that it lags so far behind other age groups at one month.

(Image credit: NCDHHS)

By then, 13 percent of the slightly older children — those between the ages of 5 and 11 — had received their first shot.

It’s time now for Omicron variant BA.5 to drive the recent surge, which has seen half of the state’s 100 counties face the highest levels of COVID-19 in communities, according to the latest CDC map.

dr Michael Smith, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at Duke University School of Medicine, says the Omicron variants admitted more children to hospitals with upper respiratory diseases, including upper respiratory tract disease and bark cough.

“I think now we need to refocus the message on the fact that children can get COVID. And that’s why it’s so important to vaccinate them,” Smith said.


CBS 17 Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 numbers since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state and local sources to provide a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation is now and what it could be in the future.

https://www.cbs17.com/community/health/coronavirus/fact-check-is-nc-really-better-at-vaccinating-youngest-kids-for-covid-than-other-states-are/ Is NC really better at vaccinating the youngest children against COVID than other states?

Dais Johnston

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