Florida parent Judi Hayes said she looks forward to reuniting with her 10-year-old son, Will, in class. However, she waits until he can get the vaccine.
“He’s sad. He misses his friends, his teachers and Olympic tennis,” said Hayes, whose child has Down syndrome and has been virtual learning since the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.
Hayes said she excluded her son from in-person learning because his Down syndrome put him at a greater risk of complications from Covid-19. She and a handful of other parents are currently suing Governor Ron DeSantis and state education officials over the governor’s ban on mask warrants in schools. Will’s 13-year-old brother is vaccinated and goes to class, though masked.
Parents walk their children on the first day of school amid the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) at West Tampa Elementary School in Tampa, Florida, United States on August 10, 2021.
Octavio Jones | Reuters
“He doesn’t really understand why his brother is going to school and he doesn’t,” Hayes said. “That’s where the vaccine comes in. We’ll get him vaccinated as soon as possible and hopefully he can go back to school, maybe in January.”
As the Biden administration begins assembling and shipping doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 for vaccinations as early as this week, some parents say they are preparing their children for a comeback to “normal” – in-person learning, sports and other extracurricular activities that have been largely suspended due to the pandemic.
Even though the daily number of Covid cases in the United States is declining, the virus still infects an average of more than 72,000 Americans per day, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Children are starting to represent a larger share of new infections.
Children ages 5 to 11 accounted for 10.6% of all reported Covid cases nationwide in the week ending October 10, even though they make up about 8.7% of the U.S. population , according to compiled data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although children are less likely than adults to suffer from a serious illness, a small portion of them do. At least 5,217 children have suffered from multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious complication related to Covid.
Complete vaccination of one million children aged 5 to 11 would prevent 58,000 Covid infections, 241 hospitalizations, 77 intensive care stays and one death, according to a modeled scenario released by the Food and Drug Administration last week. According to the agency, up to 106 children would suffer from vaccine-induced myocarditis, but most would recover.
A student attends an online course from his home in Miami, Florida, United States on Thursday, September 3, 2020.
Eva Marie Uzcategui | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Children are usually less severely infected, but “they can become so infected that they suffer, be hospitalized and die,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products. Consultative Committee.
Offit joined his colleagues on the FDA committee last week in recommending Pfizer’s vaccine for young children. “The benefit of immunizing children is clear,” he said.
The White House said it purchased enough doses to immunize the 28 million children aged 5 to 11 in the United States, and said it began the process of transferring 15 million doses from Pfizer freezers and facilities to Pfizer on Friday. distribution centers. The FDA cleared the doses on Friday and a CDC panel is expected to issue a dose recommendation on Tuesday. CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky could sign soon after.
The doses will include different directions and packaging to help medical providers avoid confusing injections with the company’s doses for people over 12, officials said. The vaccine will be given to children at lower doses, one third of the dose for adolescents and adults.
States are already preparing. California health officials, for example, said on Wednesday that the state will have 4,000 sites ready to administer 1.2 million Covid vaccines to children aged 5 to 11 as soon as the vaccines receive clearance from federal regulators.
Connecticut educator and mother of three Katie O’Shaughnessey said her 10-year-old daughter, Maeve, asked for her birthday shot in a few weeks. She said they were already trying to make an appointment with a local pediatrician.
Besides going to school and a few extracurricular activities, O’Shaughnessey said she and his wife haven’t allowed their daughter to do much else. While she recognizes that children are generally less at risk of contracting severe Covid, they are taking no risk.
“For her, it is her freedom,” she said. “We didn’t allow her to go to a restaurant. We couldn’t see a show. One of our neighbors was in a show at the theater, like a professional tour, and we wanted her to be able to see her friend and we were like ‘sorry you can’t go.’ “
O’Shaughnessey said she was not aware of any parents who said they were reluctant to have their child vaccinated – although surveys show many parents in the United States are reluctant.
According to a poll released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a third of the parents in the United States say they will not be vaccinating their children aged 5 to 11 right away, and would wait to see how the vaccine rollout unfolds. The main concerns of parents about vaccinating their children are “potential unknown long-term effects and serious side effects of the vaccine,” Kaiser said.
Pfizer says its study, which included more than 3,000 children who received the vaccine, found the injections were well tolerated, with the most common side effects being mild and comparable to those seen in a trial in adolescents and older adults. from 16 to 25 years old. effects for teens and adults include fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, chills, fever and nausea, according to the CDC.
A boy rides a bike past a sign at Pershing School in Orlando, stating that face masks are mandatory for students until October 30, 2021.
Paul Hennessy | LightRocket | Getty Images
Still, federal regulators say they are monitoring the rare inflammatory heart diseases, myocarditis and pericarditis, which have appeared in a very small number of young adults who have received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. There were no cases of myocarditis in Pfizer’s trial for children, but officials said the trial may be too small to detect rare heart disease.
Dr Theodore Ruel, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, said parents’ concerns are understandable, especially since mRNA vaccines are a relatively new technology that many people are unaware of. not.
“But at the end of the day, it’s kind of the same as a normal vaccine, which is you get this protein from the virus and your body responds to it,” he said. “I’m afraid part of the innovation angle has mystified it too much, even though it works the same as other vaccines.”
Lora Vail, a mother in Florida, said she doesn’t hesitate to get her 6-year-old son, Cooper, vaccinated. She and her husband are already fully immunized with the Pfizer vaccine, and she has an appointment for a booster dose.
“We are looking forward to the time when we can also vaccinate our son so that he is protected and can protect others,” she said.
She said many children don’t really get seriously ill from Covid, but that “doesn’t rule out children who get sick, end up in intensive care and unfortunately die.”
“It makes me wonder, for example, how much is too much,” she said. “For me, it is.”
South Carolina mother Shirley Grace has said she looks forward to going “on an adventure” with her 6-year-old son, Michael, once he is vaccinated. They used to go to weekly farmers markets, museums, zoo and libraries before the pandemic hit.
“Even though I have only limited our outings to places with Covid precautions in place, having more protection for him gives his father and me peace of mind that we may have to go out and again” , she said.