FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — When it comes to COVID-19 vaccination rates among children, some Bristol County communities have the lowest numbers in the entire state.
Among children ages 5 to 11 in Fall River and New Bedford, just 4% have at least received their first dose of the vaccine, according to data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
That’s the lowest rate in Bristol County, and one of the lowest in the state.
In more affluent communities in Bristol County, like Easton and Mansfield, 19% of eligible children have at least received a first dose.
The percentages are higher in the state’s wealthiest towns: Dover is at 39%, Wellesley is at 33%, and Sherborn is at 45%.
Dr. Staci Resnick, a pediatrician at the Pediatric Associates of Fall River, said there are several reasons why the vaccination rates are lower, but it primarily boils down to accessibility and apprehensive parents.
“I think people are apprehensive because they don’t know what the vaccine means and what’s gonna happen to their kids down the line,” Resnick said. “We keep trying to emphasize though that we don’t know what COVID means down the line.”
Resnick said her office received its shipment of pediatric vaccines on Monday.
In the first week, she said they’ve vaccinated around 75 children ages 5 to 11, but they’re still hearing from many parents who are fearful of the vaccines.
“I think that if parents are apprehensive themselves, they’re surely not gonna vaccinate their child,” Resnick said. “If you look at the adult rates in Fall River, they’re pretty low as well. I think some of it was access.”
Resnick said many people don’t want to drive out of their way to get a vaccine, and that bringing doses directly to residents is the best way to ensure people are getting vaccinated in communities like Fall River.
“Here in Fall River, we have a hard time getting patients from the other side of Fall River to get to our office,” Resnick said. “Never mind going to Gillette Stadium or these other big sites to get vaccinated.”
Dr. Jessica Rome, another pediatrician at the Pediatric Associates of Fall River, believes if they had received their supply of vaccines sooner, the immunization rates may have been higher.
“The vaccine hasn’t gotten to us until just now,” Rome said. “People have already formed a lot of opinions that they’ve gotten elsewhere. [It’s better] to be able to give it to them in the moment rather than referring them to a pharmacy, when they may change their mind, you know, between the office and the pharmacy.”
Rome said families typically put a lot of trust into their doctors and pediatricians. That’s why she believes state leaders should prioritize them.
“These are families we’ve known since birth,” Rome said. “We take care of multiple children in their family, we know the grandparents, we know the aunts, we sometimes take care of the extended family. So, I think our voice matters. I’ve had a lot of families lose grandparents to COVID and, you know, I don’t want to see any more grandparents lost.”
New Bedford has several more pediatric clinics available in the coming weeks.
- Monday, Nov. 22: Andrea McCoy Recreation Center at 181 Hillman St. – 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Pfizer, Moderna, J&J; pediatric vaccines for children 5 – 11 years old.
- Tuesday, Nov. 23: Greater New Bedford Community Health Center at 874 Purchase St. – 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, the former Fire Station 11 at 754 Brock Ave. – 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., J&J, Pfizer and Moderna; pediatric vaccines for children 5 – 11 years old, and Health Imperatives at 651 Orchard St. – 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Pfizer and J & J.
- Monday, Nov. 29: Andrea McCoy Recreation Center – 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Pfizer, Moderna, J&J; pediatric vaccines for children 5 – 11 years old.