Since the start of the pandemic, the false narrative that children are not susceptible to COVID-19 was plastered on every surface. Now, almost two years later, recent data shows that kids are equally likely, if not more likely, to catch the deadly virus than adults. It is essential to end the misinformation surrounding children and COVID and encourage parents to vaccinate themselves and their children.
Many experts suggest that the spike in COVID cases among children is related to the return to in-person learning. At the beginning of the school year, there was no vaccine available to those aged 12 and under, causing them to be more susceptible to infection. Most of these children have been quarantined and away from most of their peers for an extended period. By entering a germ-infested school with no protection from this virus, it was only a matter of time before infection rates spiked. California already requires students to be vaccinated against a majority of viruses, and pending FDA approval, children K-12 will be required to be immunized against COVID-19 to attend public schools.
Within recent months, the rate of children infected with COVID-19 has grown exponentially. In fact, children make up the bulk of the infected; this is partly due to the increase in vaccination rates among the older population. The good news is that as of Nov. 2, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has authorized and recommended that all children aged five and older get vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine.
COVID-19 cases in children can result in severe health problems. During the summer, the CDC reported a five-fold increase in COVID cases among children, many of which resulted in hospitalization. Symptoms in children can last for months on end, resulting in “long COVID,” causing future complications for the child including fatigue, joint pain, myalgia, headache, breathing problems, concentration issues and disturbances of sensory function. During trials with ages 5-11, the authorized Pfizer vaccine was shown to be 91% effective; these numbers are similar to those presented during the testing phases of adults and adolescence.
Getting children vaccinated is beneficial not only for their health but also for their education. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona believes that vaccinating elementary-level kids will be a “game-changer” for the public school system. Not only will the vaccine keep schools open and prevent further quarantines it also will give parents peace of mind when sending their young and vulnerable children into public school environments. By increasing the percentage of vaccinated students within elementary and middle schools, the probability of returning to online school dramatically diminishes. While health and safety should always remain a priority in schools, educators and administrators will now be able to shift their focus to academics, making up for lost time caused by the pandemic.
The distribution of the pediatric vaccine began on Nov. 3 and is set to scale up to full capacity starting Nov. 8, 2021. All information regarding vaccination can be found on the official CDC website. Widespread vaccination is critical to protect everyone from being infected with COVID-19. Fully vaccinated individuals have been awarded the privilege of returning to a certain degree of normalcy; the sooner vaccination rates increase, the sooner people can safely return to pre-pandemic life.