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Health, Science & Tech

Disparities In COVID Vaccine Access Likely Worse Among Kids Than Adults

Finley Martin
Marcio Jose Sanchez
/
AP
Finley Martin, 14, gets a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the First Baptist Church of Pasadena Friday, May 14, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Kids as young as 12 years old can now receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. But disparities that were seen in vaccine distribution to adults are likely to be even more pervasive among children.

Structural barriers to health care, like lack of access to technology and transportation, has made getting vaccinated harder for many Black and brown Americans, as well as those who are impoverished.

American children are both more racially diverse, and more likely to be living in poverty, compared to the adult population. Dr. Tracey Conti of the Pittsburgh-based Black Equity Coalition said health systems must intentionally ensure children have access to the vaccine.

“Partnering with people in the county, physician offices, organizations that serve children [is] going to be so important in making sure that there’s equity in access,” said Conti.

Conti, who is head of family medicine at UPMC McKeesport, also suggests partnering with schools, because unlike some locations, families already have access to these facilities.

Pfizer is the only COVID vaccine option available to people under age 18; it also has the most stringent storage requirements.

“It’s not like a Johnson & Johnson that we can just go out and give [one shot] and then that's it,” said Conti.

Because there is a danger that the logistical demands that come with the Pfizer vaccine will exacerbate racial inequities in vaccine access to kids, Conti said that outreach to community organizations is key, and that physicians serving pediatric patients need to have access to the vaccine.

“It’s really going to take all of us for this effort,” she said.