by Shawn Chitniss

SAN MATEO (KPIX) — Health officials for San Mateo County say they are pleased with the response so far by families getting their children between the ages of 5 and 11 vaccinated as the holidays begin.

“We’re really trying to create as protective an environment because kids under five still can’t be vaccinated,” said Dr. Anand Chabra, medical director for family health services for San Mateo County.

Dr. Chabra says the county has given a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to 13,000 children in the youngest eligible age range — 20 percent of that population. The option for this group of children to get the shot began recently, so the majority still have not received a first dose.

“I think a lot of parents are excited about the vaccine. It’s been a long time coming,” one parent told KPIX on Friday. “I also know some friends and some community members who are concerned and doing the wait-and-see approach.”

The percentage of 12- to 17-year-old children vaccinated is increasing across the state but the rate is low for younger children. In San Mateo County, it is around 80 percent unvaccinated. Across the Bay Area in the 5-11 age range, counties are showing between 75 to 90 percent unvaccinated. The statewide average for the same group is worse — more than 90 percent are not vaccinated.

“I think the Bay Area and San Mateo County are doing quite well overall so (I’m) pretty pleased with that but there’s always room to grow,” Anand told KPIX.

A vaccine clinic called “Playland” aimed to appeal to young children opened at the beginning of the month and helped families get through the process of receiving the first shot. Parents said they felt it was an important step to get through the rest of the year.

“Vaccines are just that extra level that we needed to return to normalcy as soon as possible,” a parent said earlier this month.

Those who are proponents of the vaccine in general say they still are cautious when considering administering the shot to children under 12.

“I think, for some parents, the concern might be because it’s such a new vaccine they aren’t sure what the possible long-term side effects will be for their kids,” a mother said on Friday.

The White House reminded families this week that getting children the first shot right now sets them up to be fully vaccinated in time for Christmas. That’s a message local health departments support as they prepare for cases to rise in the next several weeks.

San Mateo County continues to accept appointments for children at the “Playland” clinic at the county’s event center.

“We’re likely to see some sort of surge this holiday season, the question is: how bad is it going to be?” Dr. Anand said.