JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Six weeks after the federal government approved use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11, Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia find themselves in familiar territory — with vaccine uptake numbers far lower than national averages.
Within the regional averages are some wide disparities, but even the region’s counties with the highest percentages of vaccinated children fall well below the national average.
As of Friday, almost 5.8 million kids nationwide in that age group had received at least one dose of the vaccine — a full 20% of the 28.9 million in the age group, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
Running far behind that mark was not just Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, but the state of Tennessee as a whole.
Tennessee, where no school-based vaccine clinics have been conducted, was at just 10.6% statewide.
That rate stood slightly above those for both Southwest Virginia — where numerous school vaccine promotions have been held — and Northeast Tennessee.
Southwest Virginia had seen 2,005 of its 21,169 5 to 11-year-olds vaccinated for a rate of 9.5% — barely a third of the statewide total of 27.8%.
The highest percentages there are in Norton (15.4%), Washington County (12.4%) and Smyth County (11.5%). Scott and Lee counties have the lowest percentages, with Scott at 6.5% and Lee at 6.2%.
The situation across the state line is similar on the whole, but Northeast Tennessee has several counties with much lower vaccination rates than Scott and Lee counties in Virginia.
Overall, 3,226 out of the region’s 34,994 kids have gotten at least one shot, which is a rate of 9.2%.
That percentage, though, is brought up significantly by Washington and Sullivan counties, which include more than 20,000 of the total kids’ population.
Washington County was at 15.2% Friday, with 1,408 vaccinations among its 9,265 children in the age group.
That was well above Sullivan County’s 10.2%, but after those two counties, the rate drops off drastically despite plentiful supply at a variety of locations.
Unicoi, Carter and Greene counties all were fairly close together at 5.6%, 5.5% and 5.0%. Johnson County was at 3.6% and Hawkins County was the laggard of the overall region at just 3.4%.