While the FDA is still working towards whether or not it will make the COVID-19 vaccine accessible to children 12-15 years old, doctors believe that allowing children to be vaccinated against the coronavirus is the next step to achieving herd immunity.
Herd immunity is a phenomenon that occurs when nearly everyone, around 70-85% of a population, is vaccinated or has immunity to a disease. Herd immunity helps to protect the more vulnerable population by ensuring that certain diseases and infections cannot take hold, spread, and infect those who do not have the immunity—it has been seen to work against diseases like polio and smallpox.
The trials testing for safety among children have only just begun and are not projected to be finished and authorized until 2022; Pfizer states their testing includes children from 6 months old to age 16 and thus far has been 100% effective in the 12-15 age range. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have plans to begin testing as well.
As usual, doctors like Pediatrician Dr. Daniel Summers, spend much of their time addressing vaccine concerns to parents and other adults regarding the speed in which the vaccine was released. Summers eases their concerns by letting them know that the technology is not as new as it seems and the speed is associated with the need for swift vaccines more than cutting corners.
About one quarter of the U.S population is made up of children, and while they are generally at a lower risk for infection they are not invulnerable and can still infect people as well; more than 250 children under 18 have died due to coronavirus.
While the notion of herd immunity is enticing, especially when achieved perfectly, that is often not the case. Dr. Anthony Fauci wants people to loosen their grip on the possibility of herd immunity happening soon due to many reasons:
- We are largely still unsure about how infectious coronavirus is and how long it can take to achieve the large scale immunity needed to reach herd immunity
- With vaccine programs rolling out and a higher number of people going to get vaccinated, people are beginning to be more lax thus encouraging more spread of the virus and lessening the chances of herd immunity happening soon
- Because children and adolescents unable to get vaccinated until trials are done, the possibility of herd immunity lowers further
- Experts say a surge is on its way due to several states lifting mask mandates, reopening venues which have large gathering, and easing up on COVID-19 restrictions
Overall, it is very important to ensure we can continue to get the rest of the population vaccinated in order to encourage herd immunity; however, it cannot happen overnight and it is likely to take longer than most expect. The trials happening now to ensure that children can be vaccinated will greatly improve the chances of herd immunity, but until that time comes it is important to remain vigilant and proactive against infection.