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HHS releases new PSAs to encourage Covid-19 vaccinations for children under 5

<i>Hannah Beier/Reuters</i><br/>A 3-year-old receives the Moderna coronavirus disease vaccine at Skippack Pharmacy in Schwenksville
Hannah Beier/Reuters
A 3-year-old receives the Moderna coronavirus disease vaccine at Skippack Pharmacy in Schwenksville

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN

Just days after the United States rolled out child-sized doses of Covid-19 vaccine for children younger than 5, the Biden administration has launched a new ad campaign to encourage parents to give their kids the “best protection” against Covid-19: a vaccine.

In one video advertisement from the campaign, titled “Promise,” parents are shown with their babies and toddlers — cuddling and kissing them, holding their hands as they walk — while text on the screen notes that “all kids 6 months and older can get a Covid vaccine.”

These new PSAs, released Thursday by the US Department of Health and Human Services and first reported on CNN, are part of the agency’s ongoing Covid-19 vaccine public education campaign. The ads will be distributed to English and Spanish media outlets throughout the country as a public service announcement, according to HHS.

“Getting our youngest kids vaccinated requires building confidence with parents by lifting up the voices of people they trust — especially pediatricians and other parents,” said Sarah Lovenheim, HHS assistant secretary for public affairs. “These new public service announcements are part of the expanded HHS ‘We Can Do This’ effort encouraging parents to reach out to their family’s pediatrician and begin the process of vaccinating their kids under five.”

The first set of HHS’s Covid-19 vaccination ads debuted last year in April. So far, the campaign has developed and launched more than 5,000 ads in 14 different languages.

Previous Covid-19 vaccination ads have ranged from showing heartwarming scenes of friends hugging and socializing after getting vaccinated, with upbeat music playing in the background, to emotional testimonials from unvaccinated Covid-19 survivors who had been hospitalized.

There has been growing concern among public health experts about a slow uptake of Covid-19 vaccine in the youngest age group of children 6 months to 5 years old.

As vaccinations began on Tuesday, US health officials appeared on several TV networks, where they detailed the rigor of trials studying the shots’ safety and efficacy.

“We know that some number of kids do end up getting sick from Covid, unfortunately. We’ve had tens of thousands of children get hospitalized, including tens of thousands in the age group of six months to five years that just became eligible,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said on NBC. “What I would say to parents is, you know, talk to your family physician, talk to your pediatrician, talk to the people who take care of your kids and get their advice. And that’s probably the best way to move forward.”

There is already slow uptake of Covid-19 vaccines among children in the United States.

“Having vaccine options for the youngest children is very important; however, we have seen a relatively low uptake of Covid vaccines in children in the 5- to 12-year-old group, and so my concern is that uptake in the youngest children under 5 years old might also be lower than we would like,” Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told CNN last week.

He said there were “striking” differences in how many adults are fully vaccinated compared with children and teens.

Before this week, children 5 to 11 were the most recent group to become eligible for vaccination, in November. But just 29.5% of these children are fully vaccinated with their two-dose primary series in the United States, according to the CDC, compared with about:

  • 60% of adolescents 12 to 17
  • 64% of adults 18 to 24
  • 67% of adults 25 to 39
  • 75% of adults 40 to 49
  • 82% of adults 50 to 64
  • 94% of adults 65 to 74
  • 88% of adults 75 and older

“Of course, there’s a lot of work to be done to look at uptake of this vaccine. Some of the polls and surveys that have gone out to the public have indicated an ongoing lessening of parents considering giving their children these vaccines over time,” said Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation’s Vaccine Monitor survey, published in May, only 18% of parents of children under 5 said they would vaccinate their child against Covid-19 as soon as a vaccine was available.

“I think the more the pandemic is in the rearview mirror for some people — or they believe it is — then the less compelled they will be to do this,” Freeman said. “And so we have a big public health education campaign ahead of us.”

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