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Vaccinating kids for COVID-19 poses additional challenges for officials

Ariel Cohen, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

Some schools across the country already have vaccine clinics for students who are 16 to 18, but extending these clinics would take coordination and cooperation from public health departments. Bode said these clinics may require federal funding, but she was unclear on how much.

First Focus on Children recently sent a letter to Biden administration officials encouraging them to set aside funds for children’s vaccination, including at places like schools, child care centers, recreation centers and youth sports venues.

The recent COVID-19 relief law set aside $20 billion to establish a national vaccination program but does not specifically dedicate funds for pediatric vaccines. The plan also offered nearly $130 billion to help K-12 schools reopen safely, and some experts said they hope that money can go toward vaccination.

Convincing parents

State laws generally dictate school vaccine requirements. Many colleges are already saying they will require vaccinations for students to return to campus. Public school systems have yet to make decisions, and experts say it’s unlikely the coronavirus shot will be mandated for this school year.

Every state requires specific vaccines for students, but the COVID-19 vaccine is more tricky because there is no precedent for requiring an authorized, although not fully approved, vaccine in schools, Hannan noted.

The vaccines are not yet authorized for children. Pfizer is the furthest along, and the company said clinical trials proved its two-shot COVID-19 vaccine to be 100 percent effective in kids ages 12 to 15. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are also testing their COVID-19 vaccines on kids.


The Food and Drug Administration has yet to take any action on Pfizer’s request to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15, which was submitted on April 9. The agency will not hold a Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meeting before making a decision, as it did with other COVID-19 vaccine authorizations, because this is an already authorized vaccine being considered for a different age group.

Paul Offit, a member of that vaccine advisory committee, said recently that he expects the FDA to authorize the vaccine soon and is “not sure what the delay is.”

Vaccine-hesitant parents may also be a barrier. Parents who get vaccinated themselves may be reticent to give their children the shot or wait for more information. A recent Parents Together survey found 70 percent of parents plan to get vaccinated, but only 58 percent plan to vaccinate their children.

The administration should retool parts of its COVID-19 public education campaign to target parents and caregivers once the vaccine is available to kids, Pakulis suggested. Much of that messaging could happen locally in pediatricians’ offices or schools.

“That should be happening as soon as possible. Now is not too soon. … You also don’t convince parents in a day, right? It’s going to take more work than that,” Pakulis said.

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