A child wearing a face mask and T-shirt sits in a chair as a healthcare worker prepares to administer a shot
Babette Dente, a registered nurse with Nomi Health, converses with Hugo Bell, who is six and now eligible for his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, on Sunday, Nov. 21. Credit: Anthony Albidrez

Boulder County Public Health is partway to its goal of vaccinating 14,000 children ages 5-11 against Covid-19 by the end of January 2022. 

The county released its vaccination goal for children in a recent letter to parents and caregivers. Offering a bleak assessment of the Covid-19 pandemic in Colorado and Boulder County, the letter emphasized the state’s nationally high case rate and warned of hospitals “stretched to capacity due to primarily unvaccinated Covid-19 patients, non-Covid-19 emergencies and procedures, staffing shortages, and the beginnings of what appears based on preliminary data to be a bad flu season.”

The early vaccination numbers for children look promising. According to Boulder County’s Vaccine Dashboard, as of Nov. 20, 35% of eligible children had gotten their first vaccine dose, compared to 11.5% nationally. That’s about 8,200 people countywide — more than a third of the 23,500 children between the ages of 5 and 11 in Boulder County.

That’s nearly 60% of the county’s goal of 14,000 vaccinated kids.

Vaccinations for this age group began on Nov. 2 when the CDC authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5-11. At Boulder County’s pace, if kids receive their second doses, the goal of 14,000 fully vaccinated children by the end of January would be in reach.

Questions remain about when these numbers will plateau. If they follow adult vaccination rates, which leveled out near 75% in August, it may not happen for a while.

The CDC’s approval of the vaccine for children ages 5-11 came during a pivotal moment for Colorado in the Covid-19 pandemic. In early November, according to CDC data, the per capita case rate for children in Colorado reached its highest point of the pandemic. 

Over the past three weeks, this age group has experienced the highest per capita Covid-19 case rate of any age group in Colorado. By contrast, case rates for adolescents ages 12–17 are significantly lower. Countywide, 83% of residents ages 12–14 and 78% of residents ages 15–17 are partially vaccinated, according to the Boulder County Vaccine Dashboard.

Michelle Haas, Chief Medical Officer of Boulder County Public Health, outlined the tangible benefits of immunizing children in an open letter this month. Dr. Haas estimates that “for every one-million children between ages 5 and 11 vaccinated in the US over the next six months… the vaccine could prevent over 50,000 cases of Covid-19, around 200 hospitalizations, 130 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, and approximately 60-to-72 ICU admissions.”

In addition to fewer Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, public health experts say widespread immunization among children would also mean fewer disruptions to in-person learning and extracurricular activities for local children — and one more step towards community immunity for Boulder at large.

For more information on children and the Covid-19 vaccine, check out Boulder County’s resources  and list of vaccine providers in the county.