These access issues will only be magnified in kids, explained Kelly Murphy, a maternal and child health policy expert with Families USA.
“Kids have to rely on their parents, who also may not be able to take off work to get their own vaccine, let alone to then also take their kids another time to get their vaccine. It just kind of creates additional layers of barriers,” Murphy said.
Debate over distribution
This problem will likely be pronounced among children of essential workers and immigrant families and in communities of color. Although health experts say it’s unlikely many public school districts will require the COVID-19 vaccine this school year, they say vaccinating as many students as possible this summer would decrease community spread and help create a more normal school year.
Leaving kids unvaccinated could lead to new, more dangerous virus mutations and slow down protections through herd immunity. Already, virus variants are causing more infections in children. States across the country have reported an uptick in pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations, largely due to the prevalence of the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant.
Offering the vaccines through school clinics as well as other channels could remove obstacles, Bode said.
The administration is not telling schools at this point to prepare to offer the shots. When asked about plans for vaccinating children, a White House spokesperson pointed to administration officials’ comments about distributing COVID-19 vaccines to pediatricians.
“As it relates to kids, there is a well-established route of vaccinations, through the pediatrician’s office,” Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser on the COVID-19 response, said in April.
Pediatricians are often a trusted source of health care for children. The Academy of Pediatrics is working to register pediatric practices as COVID-19 vaccine providers and ensure they have the setup to provide vaccines.
But relying largely on pediatricians’ offices may not be enough. Some vulnerable populations that don’t often go to their pediatricians will face more challenges.