San Francisco, CA — The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) is recommending parents and caregivers to get children ages 5 to 11 a COVID-19 booster, now that this age group is eligible, to give stronger protection against the virus as cases continue to swell.
With federal and state approvals and recommendations for boosters in this age group finalized late last week, San Francisco health providers have begun rolling out booster doses for the more than 32,000 children that are, or will be, eligible at five months past completion of their primary vaccine series. More than 73% of San Francisco children in this age group have completed the two-dose primary vaccine series.
However, the expansion to boosters for children is also a reminder that many San Francisco children remain unvaccinated. In February, SFDPH in partnership with community groups and the San Francisco Unified School District addressed the growing disparity in vaccination rates through a sustained campaign to reach families through community and school-based vaccine events. More than 2,000 children have been vaccinated since those efforts began, with improvements made in vaccinating children of color, though gaps still remain (see below).
As cases swell again this spring, now is the time to get children up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. While hospitalizations remain very low among children, becoming infected can cause disruptions to schooling and the work schedules of parents and caregivers, and can put people in a household who are medically vulnerable at risk for severe illness. The booster rate among older children 12 to 17 is 54%, the lowest of any age group (above age 12). SFDPH continues to strongly urge boosters for teenagers as well.
“Even though children and teens tend to have mild symptoms, getting COVID-19 can be disruptive and have highly negative consequences to the family and other family members,” said Health Officer, Dr. Susan Philip. “The COVID-19 vaccine, and a booster dose when eligible lessen the chances of infection and severe illness so that kids can have a healthy end to the school year and the start of summer vacation. We know that all the fun, celebratory events and adventures kids have during this time of year are critical to their mental health and social wellbeing, and we don’t want them to miss out because of the virus.”
COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for safe use in children ages 5 to 11 since November 2021 and their effectiveness in preventing severe illness has been proven in the January surge, and during the current swell in cases. Boosters for this age group are the same Pfizer vaccine, at the same dosage, as those used in the two-dose primary series.
SFDPH is urging families to contact their primary pediatric health care provider first, if they have one, to access boosters for their children. Pharmacies are also offering booster vaccines for children aged 5-11 years. Those who need to get a booster at SFDPH-affiliated sites, can visit this link or check MyTurn (https://myturn.ca.gov/) for information on where to get one.
Increase SF vaccination rate in children ages 5 to 11 by race and ethnicity
67% (Vaccine Rate – Feb. 22)
73% (Vaccine Rate – May 20)
American Indian or Alaskan Native *
22% (Vaccine Rate – Feb. 22)
30% (Vaccine Rate – May 20)
81% (Vaccine Rate – Feb. 22)
86% (Vaccine Rate – May 20)
29% (Vaccine Rate – Feb. 22)
37% (Vaccine Rate – May 20)
48% (Vaccine Rate – Feb. 22)
56%(Vaccine Rate – May 20)
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander
34% (Vaccine Rate – Feb. 22)
43%(Vaccine Rate – May 20)
64% (Vaccine Rate – Feb. 22)
67% (Vaccine Rate – May 20)
* Estimates are less reliable than others shown due to smaller population denominators.
To continue to address the equity gap in primary series vaccinations, and to support uptake of booster doses for children who are eligible, SFDPH will support community and school-based vaccination sites in highly impacted communities and where test positivity rates are highest. SFDPH will also continue to coordinate vaccine access with pediatric primary care providers.
SFDPH is urging families to reconnect to primary care providers for COVID-19 vaccines, and for other needed vaccines and medical care and checkups. Primary care providers should now be the first resource for health care around COVID-19, as they are for other health care needs. Families who are disconnected from a primary care provider should call the COVID Resource Center for assistance: 628-652-2700.
To learn more about how to prevent infections and prepare for COVID, go to: SF.gov/be-covid-ready
The latest data on boosters in San Francisco can be found here.