Children’s Covid-19 Vaccine Is One Step Closer. Some Parents Can’t Wait.

Children's Covid-19 Vaccine Is One Step Closer. Some Parents Can't Wait.

As of Sept. 15, about 43% of 12- to 17-year-olds are fully vaccinated, and 54% have received at least one dose, according to a summary of CDC data from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Photo: Paul Hennessy/Zuma Press

Monday’s announcement that a Covid-19 vaccine for children is drawing nearer hit many parents as the first truly good news in months.

“I am very excited and relieved,” says Audrey Perrott, a mother in Cary, N.C., with an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old.

Ms. Perrott hasn’t signed her children up for favorite activities such as Cub Scouts and…

Monday’s announcement that a Covid-19 vaccine for children is drawing nearer hit many parents as the first truly good news in months.

“I am very excited and relieved,” says Audrey Perrott, a mother in Cary, N.C., with an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old.

Ms. Perrott hasn’t signed her children up for favorite activities such as Cub Scouts and swim lessons. She plans to once they are vaccinated, she says. A vaccine for their age group, she has told them, “will bring us one step closer to the pandemic ending.”

Ms. Perrott’s reaction follows the release of data from
Pfizer Inc.
and vaccine partner
BioNTech SE,
which reported on Monday that their Covid-19 vaccine was found to be safe in children aged 5 to 11 years in a late-stage study and generated a strong immune response in them.

The trial data brings children in that age group closer to eligibility. Pfizer said it would share the results with regulators in the U.S. and other countries and seek emergency-use authorization in the U.S. as early as the end of the month.

Parents of vaccine-ineligible children have held their breath in recent weeks as they sent children back to school. Pediatric cases fueled by the Delta variant are rising, and schools have myriad policies on masks and other protection for children.

Covid-19 cases among children have been increasing since the early summer, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. There were nearly 226,000 cases in children and adolescents younger than 18 between Sept. 9 and Sept. 16, the third-highest weekly number since the pandemic started.

Beginning in July, the number of new pediatric hospitalizations in the U.S. climbed for weeks, though they have recently been declining, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since the start of the pandemic, children have made up about 1.6% to 4.2% of total hospitalizations, according to the AAP.

In places with low vaccination rates, “we’re seeing really dramatic rises in hospitalization and pediatric ICUs filled to capacity,” says Sean T. O’Leary, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and vice chairman of the committee on infectious diseases at the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Yes, Covid can impact kids even though it is not as severe as in adults. We absolutely need a vaccine to protect them.”

Children's Covid-19 Vaccine Is One Step Closer. Some Parents Can't Wait.

The number of children getting their first vaccination picked up in late July and early August but has declined for each of the past five weeks.

Photo: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg News

Covid cases have already caused some disruptions to schools this year. More than 2,000 U.S. schools have had to close temporarily because of Covid-19, according to Burbio, a Pelham, N.Y., data company that is monitoring K-12 school closures across the country.

Some school districts are considering vaccine mandates for students who are old enough to be eligible. Los Angeles Unified School District in California has instituted a vaccine requirement for all students eligible for the vaccines: Children 12 and older must have their first vaccine dose no later than Nov. 21 and their second dose by Dec. 19. Several other districts are considering vaccine mandates for their students, too.

In Oregon, Portland Public Schools’ board is meeting next week to discuss a possible vaccine mandate for students.

“Vaccines play a vital role in our strategy to keep kids in school,” says board member Eilidh Lowery, who notes that there is already a mandate for school staff. “They are essential.”

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

What protocols around Covid-19 are the schools in your area putting into place? Join the conversation below.

Some parents of children aged 5 to 11 remain hesitant about vaccination.

A monthly survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation has shown waning vaccine hesitancy among parents of older children and teens, but its most recent survey, ended Aug. 2, indicated that attitudes among parents of younger children hadn’t shifted much. Twenty-six percent said they would get their child inoculated when a vaccine is authorized; 40% said they would wait and see; 25% said they definitely wouldn’t get their child vaccinated; and 9% said they would do so only if the shots are required.

“Parents’ biggest concern are potential long-term effects. People really are weighing the risks differently when it comes to kids,” says Liz Hamel, director of public opinion and survey research at the foundation.

However, she says that parents were surveyed largely before the recent rise in Covid-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant and before most children had gone back to school.

“We don’t know how much having kids in school and more kids being infected and in the hospital has changed parents’ intentions,” she says.

Roberta Satill, a director of operations for a nonprofit in Longwood, Fla., says she is “on the fence” about getting her two children aged 10 and 8 vaccinated. She worries about potential side effects and any long-term consequences.

She also believes that her children are likely at low risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19. She plans to follow the family pediatrician’s advice.

Recent studies have shown that the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines is decreasing, though experts say the shots still work well. WSJ explains what the numbers mean and why they don’t tell the full story. Photo illustration: Jacob Reynolds/WSJ

The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition

“I don’t personally want to get to the point where it’s going to be required. But if it is highly recommended by my doctor, then we will move toward getting it for them,” she said.

As of Sept. 15, about 43% of 12- to 17-year-olds are fully vaccinated, and 54% have received at least one dose, according to a summary of CDC data from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The number of children getting their first dose picked up in late July and early August but has declined for each of the past five weeks.

Joann Martyn, a university director of online learning in Naperville, Ill., says she “cannot wait” for her son Graham, 9, to be vaccinated. Her 12-year-old, Theo, received his Pfizer vaccines earlier this year at the first opportunity, she says.

She worries that her children may have a hereditary condition that puts them at higher risk of complications from Covid-19. To be extra safe, she has been picking up Graham from school for 40 minutes each day for lunch, to avoid his being near classmates while eating and unmasked.

“When I get vaccinated, I can finally get back to having lunch again and recess with my friends,” says fourth-grader Graham. “I’m really happy about it.”

Write to Andrea Petersen at andrea.petersen@wsj.com and Anne Marie Chaker at anne-marie.chaker@wsj.com

 

SOMADERM GEL Somaderm is available at thisisonsale.com