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Child Covid vaccinations off to uneven start as Southern states lag

About 1 in 4 kids ages 5-11 have received a first dose, but vaccination rates are much lower in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.
Kid getting a covid vaccine
Rihanna Chihuaque, 7, who is in the first grade, gets a covid-19 vaccine shot Nov. 12 in Chicago.Getty Images file

Welcome to The Data Point, a series from the NBC News Data Graphics team that explains a slice of the latest news through charts and visuals.

Two months after children ages 5 to 11 became eligible for Covid-19 shots, vaccination rates are lagging in Southern states.

Nationally, more than 1 in 4 of the roughly 29 million children ages 5 to 11 have received their first shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, that rate is closer to 1 in 10.

Vermont, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico and Rhode Island lead the nation in child Covid vaccinations; about half of that age group have received their first doses.

About 68 percent of adolescents ages 12-17 in the United States have received their first shots as of Wednesday, less than a month after the CDC approved a booster shot for children 12 and older.

Nationwide, pediatric hospitalizations are up 118 percent in the last two weeks, averaging more than 4,600 children in hospital beds a day, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

While the omicron variant has shown resistance to vaccines, health experts maintain that the approved vaccines are still effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death.

The CDC's director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, stressed the importance of child Covid vaccinations during a news briefing Wednesday. The omicron wave has forced many schools around the country back into remote learning, and when asked how the administration planned to keep them open, she listed a number of mitigation measures including the use of masks, ventilation and vaccinations.

“I just like to remind people that we had a pretty robust delta surge in the fall, and we were able to keep 99 percent of schools open safely with in-person learning,” she said. “That was before we had pediatric vaccination. One of the best things that we can do is get our children and our teenagers vaccinated.”