PHILADELPHIA — As young children got vaccinated against the coronavirus on Friday at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in West Philadelphia, they joined more than 12,700 kids who have already done so in Philadelphia.
Their shots were already exciting — finally being able to get protected against COVID-19 was a big deal for the little ones, and their parents — but Friday's clinic included a special guest: first lady Jill Biden.
She arrived in Philadelphia the day after President Joe Biden announced his winter COVID-19 plan, which includes opening more vaccination clinics aimed at families, including mobile FEMA-run clinics, and creating Medicaid-funded vaccine counseling visits for parents.
As she joined several families in CHOP's post-vaccination room, Biden shook hands and congratulated them on getting vaccinated.
"It was easy, right? And now it's going to protect you," Biden told one youngster, squatting down to talk to the girl and her sister.
Another mother proudly showed her own vaccination card to Biden, saying, "We are all vaccinated." One young girl who had just received a shot screamed, "Oh my god!" when Biden walked in. She ran up waving, paused, and then flew into the first lady's arms.,
Four million children 5 to 11 have been vaccinated since that age group became eligible on Nov. 2, according to the White House, along with 15 million adolescents.
But after an initial rush of highly interested families, the demand for kids' shots has slowed, and both federal and state officials are hoping to accelerate vaccinations. Generally, that means convincing parents, who can be hesitant about vaccinating their children even if they themselves are vaccinated.
In Pennsylvania, more than 91,000 5-to-9-year-olds have gotten their first dose, about 15% of that population. More than a quarter of those living in Montgomery and Chester Counties, which have the state's highest rates, have done so. For 10-to-14-year-olds, a third have at least one dose, nearly 219,000 children. In Philadelphia, 10.6% of children 5 to 11, or approaching 13,000, had had at least one shot as of Thursday.
And in New Jersey, 12% of kids 5 to 11 have gotten vaccinated, state health commissioner Judith Persichilli said Monday.