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November 11, 2021

A 'game changer': Inside the 'nationwide effort' to vaccinate young children

Daily Briefing

    Many schools are participating in the "nationwide effort" to vaccinate children ages five to 11 and turn the tide of the pandemic—an effort that has already reached more than 900,000 young kids.

    Vaccines for younger kids: The 5 most important considerations

    Efforts to vaccinate children are underway

    Following FDA's authorization and CDC's recommendation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages five to 11, First Lady Jill Biden and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Monday visited Franklin Sherman Elementary School, the first school to administer the polio vaccine in 1954, to kick off the "nationwide effort" to vaccinate children.

    And by Wednesday, according to NBC News, the Biden administration announced that roughly 900,000 children ages five to 11 have already received at least their first dose of the vaccine.

    To facilitate further vaccination of this younger age group, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona are sending letters to school districts across the country, encouraging them to organize vaccination clinics, the Associated Press reports.

    And many elementary schools nationwide have already started preparing to become vaccination sites for children. For instance, in Duluth, Minn., more than 250 families have signed up for vaccinations at elementary schools since last Thursday. Guadalupe Guerrero, superintendent of schools in Portland, Ore., announced that vaccines will be offered in eight elementary schools starting next week in high-poverty districts. And in Hartford, Conn., Hartford Public School Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said school vaccination clinics will be planned alongside local hospitals and will include trusted school nurses.

    In areas where schools elect not to hold vaccination clinics, families can get their children vaccinated at doctors' offices, hospitals, or other sites, AP reports. Hayley Meadvin, a senior advisor to the Department of Education, said, "There are many points of access, and there's no wrong door, honestly."

    In addition, some localities are offering parents logistical support to encourage them to vaccinate their children. For example, Chicago Public Schools announced it will cancel school on Nov. 12 for "Vaccination Awareness Day," giving parents an opportunity to get their children vaccinated.

    And on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio extended additional paid sick leave for city workers and contractors who get their children vaccinated. Workers will receive four extra hours of paid time per child for each shot, Bloomberg reports. "You shouldn't have to choose between your paycheck and the health of your family," the mayor said.

    Separately, Torres-Rodriguez said, "We take an equity stance here and think about the access and removing any barriers that our families might have."

    How vaccinating children impacts the trajectory of the pandemic

    While the Covid-19 mortality rate among children has been relatively low throughout the pandemic, infected children can still spread the virus, Vox reports—a situation that risks the health of others and increases the likelihood the virus will mutate. So, according to Vox, vaccinating children protects them and limits the further spread of Covid-19.

    In addition, while the number of school closures has declined this fall, many schools have still shut down in-person learning in attempts to contain outbreaks. CDC director Rochelle Walensky previously noted that school closures have had detrimental social and mental health impacts on children, but said, "Pediatric vaccination has the power to help us change all of that."

    Going forward, Cardona on Monday said that with increased vaccinations and improved coronavirus treatments, there "should be no need for remote or hybrid learning."

    And according to AP, many educators agree that this child vaccine rollout is "key" to making classroom experiences what they once were.

    For example, John Magas, superintendent of schools in Duluth, Minn., called the ability to vaccinate children a "game changer." He said, "This brings us one step closer to moving from pandemic to endemic. It allows us to reconsider things like social distancing and masking and things like that as safety permits." (Eaton-Robb, Associated Press, 11/7; Reyes, Axios, 11/7; Reyes, Axios, 11/9; Gonzalez, Axios, 11/5; Erman/Steenhuysen, Reuters, 11/2; Miller, Associated Press, 11/8; Reyes, Axios, 11/9; Chen, Bloomberg, 11/8; Edwards, NBC News, 11/10; Irfan, Vox, 11/2)

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