In June, the FDA approved COVID vaccines for children ages six months through five years. For a variety of reasons, many analysts predicted that participation rates for these age groups would be significantly lower than for the rest of the population. But the vaccines began being shipped out to pediatricians and clinics around the country anyway. Those predictions turned out to be more than a little prescient. The Boston Globe reports this week that doctors are throwing out vials of vaccine at an alarming rate due to the storage and usage requirements for the Pfizer doses. Massachusetts has one of the highest vaccination rates for young children in the country, but that rate is still barely in double digits. The national figures are considerably lower still.

When COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 finally rolled out in June, doctors expected to face hesitant parents. Surveys had predicted that only one in five would jump at the chance to vaccinate their littlest children right away.

But in the six weeks since, the uptake has proven even weaker than feared.

Nationally, as of figures reported on Aug. 3, 3.83 percent of children aged 6 months until 5 years had received at least one dose of vaccine. In Massachusetts, which provided more current data, the number was 11 percent, one of the highest rates in the nation but still lower than any other age group in the state.

So Boston and the state of Massachusetts, in general, have an eleven percent vaccination rate. The national average is less than four percent. That’s an almost insignificant percentage. But did anyone really expect different results, despite the endless commercials blaring on our televisions about how wonderful these shots will be for toddlers? Young children remain the least statistically likely to contract the virus and the least likely to have serious health outcomes if they do. Why would most parents be in a rush to take their very young children out to get the shots?

The reason that so many vials are literally going down the drain is the stringent guidance for storing the vaccine vials. They have a lifespan as soon as they come off the production line, so medical professionals really need to be good at estimating their usage rates to avoid excessive waste. But once the seal on any given vial is broken, the clock starts ticking. The vaccine has to be used within 12 hours or the remainder of the vial must be discarded. This reality left one pediatrician feeling “icky” about the sheer volume of vaccines that they have been dumping out.

There’s really not much the government can do about the low uptake rates unless they want to take their authoritarian urges to a seriously draconian level. For adults, they can (and do) threaten your livelihood if you fail to comply and take the shots. For school-age students, they can threaten the parents with the prospect of locking the children out of school. But what can they do when parents refuse to have these experimental vaccines injected into their toddlers? There doesn’t seem to be much they can do, though I suppose they can put the child’s name on a list and refuse to let them enroll in kindergarten when the time comes.

The vaccine mandates have turned out to be dumpster fire as a public policy tool. There has been a steady undercurrent of resistance to the mandates all across the country, though the Biden administration hasn’t wanted to admit it. It’s true that many people did wind up complying, but plenty of them have been resentful of the situation. As with most other aspects of life, Americans are used to having and making their own choices, particularly when it comes to healthcare decisions. And that effect is multiplied when you’re talking about parents being scolded about proper healthcare for their children. If parents were truly excited about the idea of COVID immunizations for their pre-school children, the participation rather would be far higher than four percent.

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