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Why aren't more teenagers getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

Just over half of all 12- to 17-year olds are fully vaccinated in the United States.

ATLANTA — COVID-19 booster shots are now available to 16- and 17-year-olds, while the rate of adolescents willing to get their vaccines seems to have slowed.

Nationwide, more than half of all adolescents have rolled up their sleeve at least once. According to the latest CDC data, 63% of 12- to 17-year-olds in the U.S. have received one COVID vaccine, while 53% are fully vaccinated. Vaccines for all teenagers have been available since May.

The majority of families who see Dr. Andi Shane at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are eager for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I've heard more of, ‘When can the younger children under the age of five get vaccinated?’,” Dr. Shane said. “The family wants to travel but we have young children or grandchildren.”

According to the CDC, in late December less than 60% of the county’s 12- to 17-year-olds had received at least one dose compared to 80% for all adults.

The Kaiser Family Foundation questioned parents about their view of the COVID-19 vaccines. A total of 63% of those parents believe the shots are safe for them, but only 53% believe them to be safe for adolescents.  A little more than a third of the parents surveyed by the CDC say they’re taking a wait and see attitude.

Dr. Shane is a Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist with Children’s Healthcare. She says the overwhelming majority of COVID patients hospitalized at Children’s have been unvaccinated.

“The other challenge also with waiting is that everybody who's unvaccinated is really a source for a new variant to occur,” Dr. Shane said. “Getting a vaccine protects the people around you and also prevents potential emergence of new variants.”

Access is a concern among some parents, with some expressing they would have to take time off from work to get their child a shot.

The Kaiser Family Foundation survey found fewer than half of the parents questioned had talked to their child’s pediatrician to seek information about the risks and benefits of a COVID vaccine.

Dr. Shane says it’s time for parents to have that discussion about both the COVID and flu vaccine.

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