Most 5-to-11-Year Olds In School Are Not Vaccinated

Dr. Sohil Sud, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at UCSF, is committed to driving government policy that impacts our lives.

Dr.Sohil Sud, CA Dept. of Public Health
Dr. Sohil Sud, CA Dept. of Public Health

He leads the school’s team at the California Department for public health and believes, “There’s only so much I can do with a white coat and stethoscope, and my work in policy arenas can feel at times more impactful and cathartic.”

But as the pandemic rolls on relentlessly, even policy making can be challenging, with millions of children at risk of infection as the virus continues to mutate, and pushback from parents who don’t want to vaccinate.

Data from the American Academy of Pediatrics recorded nearly 12.8 million cases of children infected with Covid19 as of March 17. And while children are less likely to become severely ill if they get COVID-19, the Mayo Clinic reports that “some children will need to be hospitalized, treated in the intensive care unit or placed on a ventilator to help them breathe.”

So, will a policy on Covid vaccinations in schools save lives?

The answer says Dr. Sud, is yes.

It’s especially important for 5–11-year-olds, an age group that has the lowest possible rate of vaccinations among groups eligible for it. His goal is to keep children out of hospitals and in school. But, the CDC reports that only 26.9% of children ages 5-11 have been vaccinated. In California, rates vary dramatically by county based on political leanings, density, and access to the shot.

Vaccination rates by county in CA

Dr. Sud highlighted three new policy statewide updates for California at a Vaccinate All 58 Initiative briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services .  Changes in policy no longer require schools to track and enforce state masking mandates.

California’s policy on group tracing after exposure to Covid, has changed from a quarantine-based model to a requirement that schools follow a notification-based model. A student who has Covid should immediately isolate but the rest of the class does not have to. Students will be notified about the exposure, tested for Covid and remain on high alert for symptoms.

Lastly, the state will continue to ramp up support of school communities for longer term prevention strategies, -specifically vaccination. Schools can host vaccination clinics if they choose to do so. Gov Newsom has proposed a mandate for vaccinating children 12 and over after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approves the shot for children ages 12 and older

But California lawmakers are demanding stricter COVID vaccine mandates for children.

State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) has proposed a new Senate Bill (871), that would add  a Covid shot to the list of required school immunizations for the fall. It would supersede Gov. Newsom’s student COVID-19 vaccine mandate by requiring all kids in K-12 to get the shot by Jan. 1, 2023, in order  to attend public or private schools. It does not allow parents to opt out based on personal beliefs.

Some parents are less inclined to vaccinate their children reports a KFF poll from October 2021, which found that 27% of parents of 5- to 11-year-olds nationally definitely won’t vaccinate their children, while 30% decided to wait and watch.

Senate Bill 866, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would not require parent’s consent or knowledge and would permit children 12 and older to choose to be vaccinated including against COVID-19.

Surprisingly, California’s Imperial County, which has extremely high unemployment rates, and where 40 percent of students are English learners, is in the top 4 counties to have adopted vaccination, said Beth Jarosz, Program Director at PRB.

Children cannot be ignored, says UNICEF  which is predicting a Covid-driven child crisis. “A fragmented and inequitable response to both treating and vaccinating against COVID-19 only risks prolonging the pandemic”

Children are vectors for infectious disease.

Ritu Marwah is a feature writer based in Silicon Valley. A Winner of the Taste of Silicon Valley contest she is a gourmand in all things wine, food, and travel. Whether for work or play, she never tires of exploring California wine country. Ritu’s other work: Kamasutra Wine, BBNC Indian Cooking Meetup with Ritu Marwah.

Photo by Andrew Ebrahim on Unsplash


Ritu Marwah is an award-winning author ✍️ and a recognized Bay Area leader in the field of 🏛 art and literature. She won the 2023 Ethnic Media Services award for outstanding international reporting;...