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More LA Teens Are Getting Vaccinated Against The Coronavirus

A teenager wearing a blue t-shirt holds part of his sleeve up as a person holding a syringe prepares to vaccinate his upper left arm. Both are wearing masks.
Vaccination rates among teens are rising in L.A. County; part of the reason could be because they must be immunized to play sports.
(Matthew Hatcher
/
Getty Images North America)
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New COVID-19 cases continue to decline in Los Angeles County. Health officials reported 1,222 cases at Thursday’s weekly press briefing. Deaths have also decreased to around 13 daily, another indication that the latest wave of the virus caused by the highly transmissible delta variant is ebbing in the county.

They key, said County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, is increasing vaccinations.

“As of Sept. 25, unvaccinated people were five times as likely than vaccinated people to get infected and 23 times as likely to be hospitalized,” she said.

For weeks health officials have struggled to get more children and young people immunized, and were disappointed when there was no increase in shots after Pfizer’s vaccine received full federal approval in August. But in the past month, there’s been a rise in teenagers and younger Angelenos getting vaccinated.

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A chart showing increasing vaccinations among teenagers of color.
(Courtesy of the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health)

Between Sept. 5 and Oct. 3, there was a 5% increase in Latino children 12-15 years old receiving the free shots. (The percentage was similar for American Indian and Alaskan Native children, though they comprise a small portion of the local population.) The vaccination rate among Black children in the same age group also increased by 3-4% Ferrer said.

Ferrer credited parents and family members for wanting children to get vaccinated before the holidays, as well as the LAUSD requirement that children 12 and up who participate in extracurricular activities be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

“I think for students that are playing sports, or engaging in an extracurricular activity that they love, that may also be a motivating factor, as well," she said. "We're just glad to see the increase."

There are still large gaps in vaccination rates among different age and racial and ethnic groups. Black Angelenos have the highest case and hospitalization rate in the county, and are the least likely to be vaccinated.

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The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has full FDA approval for people ages 16 and older, and those between the ages of 12 and 15 can get the shot under the current emergency use authorization.

The pharmaceutical companies have now requested an emergency use authorization from federal health authorities for their COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

Ferrer said the health department is prepared to get hundreds of thousands of children in that age group vaccinated, once it’s authorized by the FDA.

What questions do you have about the pandemic and health care?
Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.