Yankton Press & Dakotan. May 4, 2021.

Editorial: COVID Vaccines For Kids And Teens

What’s the next step in America’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts?

There are at least two directions this could go.

One direction involves getting those adults ages 16 and older who haven’t received the vaccine yet to finally decide to get the jab. This one seems quite problematic, of course, with many adults either holding off or resisting the vaccine for their own particular reasons.

The other direction looks more promising, at least at this moment, as it was reported Monday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for kids between the ages of 12-15 years old. According to the New York Times, the green light for this may come as early as next week.

This could be a huge boost in this country’s COVID-19 battle, and it could also provide a tremendous sense of relief to parents who fear that their children may become exposed to the coronavirus or its variants.

Contrary to what some have proclaimed since practically the beginning of the pandemic, children and young adults are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infections. According to a report published in January by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “COVID-19 cases in children, adolescents and young adults have increased since summer 2020, with weekly incidence higher in each successively increasing age group. Trends among children and adolescents aged 0-17 years paralleled those among adults.”

On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that while the number of children getting infected by COVID has dropped since the start of 2021, kids now account for more than 20% of all new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. According to some health experts, the reason for the rise may be relative: Kids are making up a greater share of new infections because more adults are becoming vaccinated. However, another possibility may be that more schools are loosening up their restrictions, which is causing an erosion of the social distancing and other defensive measures that have been utilized the past several months.

Kids don’t possess a special protection from COVID, nor are they immune from the worst effects that the virus. Last week, a child under age 10 in Marshall, Minnesota, passed away from COVID-related illness. The victim, who was a first-grade student, was the third pediatric COVID death Minnesota has recorded during the pandemic. The other deaths were an infant last summer and a 7-year-old in February.

Deaths among younger ages may indeed be rare, but such incidents reinforce the fact that kids are not necessarily safe from the virus.

The vaccines look promising on this front, too. In March, Pfizer said a clinical trial involving more than 2,200 adolescents between ages 12-15 showed 100% efficacy and indicated no abnormal (at least, as far as COVID vaccines go) side effects.

So, if the pool for vaccine eligibility can be expanded, it figures to be another hopeful ray of light in the increasingly brightening pandemic outlook.