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Flu Shots Drop Dramatically Among White Kids

December 5, 2022 6:01 p.m.

We know that before the pandemic there were political fringes on the right and left which opposed vaccination. But the idea that politics would have anything to do with whether you got your flu shot would have seemed strange. Now, however, we’re seeing another concrete downstream effect of anti-vaccine activism on the right.

We’re now in the midst of a pretty bad flu season. That appears mostly due to the fact that the population has been relatively insulated from contagious respiratory diseases for going on three years. Our immune systems are out of practice. But it’s not only that. Vaccination rates are also down. New data show that vaccination rates among US children are down 4.8% compared to before the pandemic. But the details tell a more specific story. Vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic children are still slightly behind where they were pre-pandemic. Among white children however, the rates are down more than 7%.

In other words, the problem is White kids. That would require some explanation in any case. But that is especially so since it’s almost always poorer and more marginalized communities that lag behind population averages on all sorts of medical care and prevention. White kids are neither.

If I were an epidemiologist or statistician I might want more data to explain this divergence. But living in the real world of US politics I don’t think I need any more information at all. This seems pretty clearly to be about US Republicans growing resistance to vaccinations of all kinds and the fact that US Republicans remain overwhelmingly white.

Also notable, just over the last year uptake rates have risen 8.7% among Black children and 4.5% among Hispanic children. There was a drop off across the board in large part because the early pandemic kept people from the doctor’s office. But the number has continued to drop, even over the last year, among White children, down 3.7% over the last year.

It’s one more impact of the politicization of COVID and one that is not going away.

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