PICO RIVERA, Calif. — School-age children are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, yet vaccination rates are lower for elementary school kids than older students.
Just over 28% of kids ages 5-11 in Los Angeles County have gotten at least one shot, compared to 82% of kids ages 12-17.
Edgardo Castro was excited to get his first shot.
"Because just to be safe and if the virus affects me then it won't affect me as hard," the 10-year-old said.
He's already had COVID, so he knows how it feels. Plus, he wants to protect himself from the omicron variant. He's heard a lot about it on the news and at school.
"My teacher talks about it and she tells us to like, be careful and try not to get sick and wear a mask at all times," he said.
The percentage of kids his age getting the vaccine is low.
At El Rancho Unified School District in Pico Rivera, 19% of students ages 5-11 are vaccinated.
Parent Alex Cerda has thought about getting his second grader vaccinated. He doesn't want her to get COVID at school, but he isn't convinced the vaccine will be safe.
“My biggest concern is they take years to study vaccines and we’re not in that term yet and we need to know what’s going to happen with this in the long run,” Cerda said.
Many parents are hesitant, which is why the El Rancho Unified School District has made testing mandatory every five days.
But Superintendent Dr. Frances Esparza wishes more elementary students would get vaccinated.
"We want to make sure that everyone's safe," Esparza said. "That our teachers feel comfortable coming to school knowing that our students that have been out and about and doing their family things and things on the weekend are vaccinated…and vice versa."
She helped set up vaccination clinics at school sites. Her district lost many employees, family members and some students to COVID last year. She doesn't want that to happen again.
"We want to make sure that we don't increase that death rate. That we make sure everyone is safe and healthy here in El Rancho," Esparza said.
El Rancho Unified hosts a pediatric vaccine clinic every week.