Vaccine mandates in schools for those ages 12 and up will be a “good idea” to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a new CNN interview.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in people at least 16 years old. It also has an emergency use authorization for use in kids between the ages of 12 and 15. Although kids generally are less likely to have severe consequences from a COVID-19 infection, the rates of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations among kids have spiked in recent weeks, likely thanks to the delta variant.
Once experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA conclude the benefits outweigh the risks of vaccination and give it full approval in that younger age group, COVID-19 vaccine requirements will be similar to those requirements for other shots, Dr. Fauci explained.
“When that gets established, which I believe it certainly will,” Dr. Fauci said, “I believe that mandating vaccines for children to appear in school is a good idea.” In fact, California’s Culver City Unified School District recently became the first school district in the state (and, likely, the entire U.S.) to require vaccines for eligible students ages 12 and older in addition to teachers and staff, the New York Times reported.
Despite the outcry you might see on social media, vaccine mandates in schools are not a new concept. “We’ve done this for decades and decades, requiring polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis,” Dr. Fauci said. “So, this would not be something new, requiring vaccinations for children to come to school.”
As the back-to-school season ramps up amid a surge in coronavirus cases due to the extra-contagious delta variant, it will be crucial for schools to implement certain safety protocols to keep kids and those around them safe. That will undoubtedly include masks, grouping students in cohorts, and COVID-19 vaccines for many—possibly including students as young as 12. (Children under that age are not able to access any of the COVID-19 vaccines right now, which makes it all the more important for those around them to get vaccinated.)
With safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available and, eventually, the added confidence of full FDA approval to use those vaccines in this younger age group, vaccine requirements in schools may make perfect sense to keep everyone there safer.