Our 5-11 Year Old Kids Can’t Wait For A Vaccine

A day after I wrote a post advocating that unvaccinated 5-11 year olds not attend in-person classes, Michelle Goldberg wrote in The New York Times about another solution to the problems of unvaccinated children. Her solution is to vaccinate the children. Michelle Goldberg’s solution is good one. Please read her opinion piece which is below.

Julie Swann, an engineer who studies health systems and models infectious disease at North Carolina State University, leads a team of researchers who recently tried to simulate how the Delta variant of the coronavirus could move through schools in various scenarios. The results, which The Washington Post published over the weekend, were alarming.

Absent masking and testing, the study said, more than 75 percent of susceptible students would become infected in three months. Even with masking and testing, the simulation found, kids in environments with low immunity — which includes virtually all elementary school classrooms — had a 22 percent chance of getting Covid within 107 days.

As a parent of two elementary-school students, I found these figures harrowing. It already felt like a gut punch when, last week, Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said he didn’t expect a pediatric Covid vaccine to be approved before the end of the year.

I live in New York City, where school staff members must be vaccinated and mask mandates are relatively uncontroversial. But the calculations by Swann’s team made it look as if my family’s chance of getting through this fall without either of our kids coming down with Covid was almost a coin flip.

After talking to Swann, I realize it’s not that simple. Her team didn’t factor in the effect of quarantining students who test positive, and it assumed imperfect mask usage. For many schools, she expects the number of infections to be lower than what the model showed. That’s unlikely, however, to be of much comfort to parents who take Covid seriously but are surrounded by people who don’t. With school just beginning and pediatric hospitalizations already higher than ever, they are in an especially intolerable situation.

That’s why we need the Food and Drug Administration to move quickly. “I can tell you almost certainly there will be data available in September to present to Pfizer,” Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a Stanford professor of pediatric infectious diseases and a lead investigator at the Stanford site of Pfizer-BioNTech’s pediatric vaccine trial, told me. She thinks Pfizer will be able to file for emergency use authorization in October.

So why is Collins saying the end of the year? It’s unclear. One question, which even well-connected people are having a hard time getting an answer to, is whether the F.D.A. is going to demand extra data for the kids’ vaccine. In July, the agency asked Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to double the number of kids in their clinical trials to have a better chance of detecting rare side effects. The F.D.A. also said it wanted four to six months of follow-up safety data, as opposed to two for adults.

Most experts don’t think this data is necessary for the F.D.A. to authorize the vaccine on an emergency basis. But we don’t know if the F.D.A. will insist on waiting for it. “That is probably one of the decision points that is affecting the various predictions,” said Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Two weeks ago, 108 members of Congress, worried about how long approval for a pediatric vaccine was taking, wrote to the F.D.A. seeking some visibility into its timetable. On Monday, the F.D.A. responded, but without offering specifics. “We understand that it is essential that the public have full trust in the F.D.A.’s review process, complete confidence in whatever products we approve or authorize, and faith in F.D.A. and our commitment to protecting public health,” the agency said.

Personally, I’m losing that trust. I fear the F.D.A. knows it will be blamed if anything goes wrong with the vaccine, but not necessarily if kids get horribly sick for lack of it.

Even with Delta, kids are far less likely to die than adults. But it’s hard to take comfort in that while children’s hospital beds are filling up. In a letter to President Biden, the chief executive of the Children’s Hospital Association recently wrote, “With pediatric volumes at or near capacity and the upcoming school season expected to increase demand, there may not be sufficient bed capacity or expert staff to care for children and families in need.”

Many parents, convinced that Covid is more dangerous to their children than the vaccine, are going to great lengths to try to get shots for their kids. Some whose younger kids can pass for 12-year-olds are simply lying about their ages.

I’m one of many who has tried, unsuccessfully, to get my pediatrician to give my kids an off-label inoculation, which is technically legal now that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been fully approved by the F.D.A. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against this, partly on the grounds that doctors shouldn’t be calculating dosages and dosing schedules on their own.)

In addition to modeling diseases for a living, Swann has a 10-year-old who is returning to school. She told me that if her pediatrician agreed to vaccinate her kid off label, she would do it. “Parents are desperate for it,” she said.

The F.D.A. can minimize risk to itself by taking its time. Families don’t have that luxury.

Protecting The Defenseless

The University of Virginia recently disenrolled 238 students because those students are not vaccinated. They will not be allowed on campus and are not able to enroll in any classes due to their vaccination status. The UVA President said that the vaccination of the student body ” will allow classes and events to continue as usual.”

Similarly, colleges and universities in Connecticut are mandating vaccines for all of their students due to the surge of the delta variant. Also, two major insurance companies in Hartford were planning to bring their employees back to their offices as of the beginning of September but now have told their employees to remain working from home due to the surge of the delta variant.

However, students in kindergarten through grade 12 in Connecticut are returning to in-class learning even though half of those students are too young to be vaccinated, and the delta variant is prevalent among young children. It doesn’t add up. Since working adults and college age adults are being protected from Covid-19, so too should unvaccinated students in our public and independent schools who are between 5 and 11 years old and, therefore, now ineligible for the vaccines.

We are putting our youngest school age population, unvaccinated children between 5 and 11 years of age, at risk.

More than 4.1 million children have been diagnosed with Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, accounting for 14.3 percent of all cases, according to the latest data from the American Academy of Pediatrics. From July 15 to July 29, that percentage rose to 19 percent of weekly reported cases. Because the delta variant is so contagious, the increase in cases clearly shows the virus’s potential in young children.

So what is the solution for this school year? We should do what the University of Virginia has done with their students who were not vaccinated: Keep those students from gathering in school buildings. We should protect those students who are between 5 and 11 years of age and have them participate in remote learning from home.

There is no way unvaccinated children can be safe congregating with other unvaccinated children. We should not wait for tragedy to strike and then move to remote learning for children 5-11 years old. Now is the time to be preventative and move to remote learning for children between 5 and 11 years of age. We should take as good care of our youngest students as the University of Virginia and Connecticut colleges and universities are taking of their young adult populations.

No one prefers remote learning to in-person learning, and plans will have to be formulated for those children who have no adult in the home during the school day. But this is the time for safety first. We must protect the defenseless, protect the children who do not have the defense provided by the vaccines.

The Safety of the General Public Demands It

Ruth Marcus has the answer for saving us from the next round of sickness and deaths from the corona virus. Please read her compelling argument in her recent Washington Post opinion piece.


After you read her argument, if you agree with her, please send a copy of the piece to your Senators, Member of Congress, and President Biden.