Watch: Experts discuss how to achieve vaccine equity for kids


First Focus on Children co-hosted a virtual Congressional briefing today to discuss how to achieve equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine for children and ensure that caregivers are reached in ways that are compelling and authentic to them. The event was co-sponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Kim Schrier. Senator Brown has been named by us as a Champion for Children for nine consecutive years, and Representative Schrier — an outstanding supporter of children in the House of Representatives and a leading expert on these matters, as the only pediatrician serving in Congress — kicked off the briefing with opening remarks.

Our panel of experts included presentations from Dr. Rhea Boyd, MD, MPH — a Pediatrician and co-developer of THE CONVERSATION: Between Us, About Us, Dr. Jessica Calarco, Ph.D. from Indiana University’s Department of Sociology, and Dr. Michelle Fiscus, MD — a FAAP Pediatrician and Public Health Consultant for National Academy for State Health Policy. These speakers described the challenges facing equitable access to vaccines, how to effectively address parent concerns, and how state and local officials are responding to the pandemic in ways that are helpful and harmful.

As Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus on Children said during the briefing — “a false narrative took hold early in the COVID-19 pandemic that children aren’t affected by this virus. This couldn’t be further from the truth.”

For example, this is the current state of kids and COVID-19:

  • 6.6 million children have tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • 25,292 children have been hospitalized. 
  • 625 children have died. 
  • More than 175,000 U.S. children have lost a primary caregiver due to the pandemic. The majority of children who lost a parent or grandparent caregiver come from American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic families.  
  • There was a 24% increase in mental health emergencies for children ages 5-11 and a 31% increase for children ages 12-17 in 2020. 
  • Black, Hispanic, and Asian children have had lower rates of testing and are significantly more likely to be infected than white children. 
  • Black and Hispanic children are more likely to be hospitalized. 
    Hispanic, Black, and American Indian, and Alaska Native children have been more likely to die. 

Now that they’re eligible, 2.6 million kids have already gotten their first dose of the vaccine. Unfortunately, only seven states and D.C. report race/ethnicity data on kids, so it remains unclear who is vaccinated and most importantly, who isn’t. Our speakers did a terrific job of offering insights and solutions to getting kids vaccinated and responding to racial inequity.

For access to the slides used during this briefing, click here.