Vaccines for Young Kids?

Some parents are hesitant to vaccinate 5-11-year-olds.,


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This is the Education Briefing, a weekly update on the most important news in U.S. education. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

Today, we’re covering a coming fight over vaccines for young children, test-to-stay programs and social media advice for parents.

ImageNicholas Cavallo, 12, received a Pfizer vaccine in May. The shots could be available to younger children soon.
Nicholas Cavallo, 12, received a Pfizer vaccine in May. The shots could be available to younger children soon.Credit…Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

Pfizer and BioNTech say their coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective in children from 5 to 11. The shots could be available to young children around Halloween, my colleague Apoorva Mandavilli reports.

For some parents, emergency authorization from the F.D.A. cannot come soon enough. But others are hesitant, my colleagues Sarah Mervosh and Dana Goldstein report.

Only about 40 percent of children ages 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated, compared with 66 percent of adults, according to federal data. Polling indicates that parental openness to vaccination decreases with a child’s age.

Even some vaccinated parents don’t intend to inoculate their kids immediately, in part because of the relatively small size of children’s trials.

One vaccinated mother in California said that she thought the potential risk seemed to her to outweigh the benefit, because young children have been far less likely than adults to become seriously sick.

A reader from Greenwich, Conn., is also waiting.

“This is good news,” the reader commented on Apoorva’s article, “but as I did with my 13-year-old, I’ll let a few million other little ones get vaccinated, with any rare side effects reported, before I get my 10-year-old vaccinated.”

Nationally, a pediatric vaccine would be a game changer for broader vaccination efforts. There are about 28 million children age 5 to 11 in the U.S., far more than the 17 million of ages 12 to 15 who became eligible for Pfizer’s vaccine in May.

And the need is urgent: Children now account for more than one in five new cases, and more have been hospitalized in the past few weeks than at any other time in the pandemic.

But without widespread vaccine requirements in schools, it remains to be seen how many parents will voluntarily sign up their children.

Alone among major districts, Los Angeles has mandated shots for all students 12 and older. On Monday, Washington, D.C., announced a softer requirement: All adults who are regularly in schools and child care centers, and all eligible student-athletes, must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1.

Los Angeles, though, has a remote schooling option, and students don’t need to play sports to graduate. Districts without remote learning for the general population, like New York City and Chicago, have few options if parents refuse vaccines.

More on the science:

  • Trial details: Pfizer’s trial included 2,268 children ages 5 to 11. Two-thirds received two doses three weeks apart; the rest had placebos.

  • Trial results: Vaccinated children produced antibody levels comparable to those seen in earlier participants, who were 16 to 25. The younger children could achieve similar results with a smaller dose of the vaccine.

  • Hospitalization data: In August, nearly 30,000 children were hospitalized for Covid. The least-vaccinated states reported the highest rates.


A test-to-stay site in Marietta, Ga.Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Districts across the U.S. are embracing “test-to-stay” protocols, which try to limit quarantines for students who have been exposed to the virus.

For seven days, before school starts, close contacts of the infected child take a coronavirus test. If they have no symptoms and a negative test result, they can head to class.

One district, Marietta, Ga., began a test-to-stay policy in September, more than a month after school started. Before that, from Aug. 3 to Aug. 20, 51 positive tests sent nearly 1,000 people into quarantine. “That’s a lot of school, especially for children that are recovering from 18 months in a pandemic,” Grant Rivera, the superintendent, said.

And students barely learn in quarantine, The Associated Press has reported.

The C.D.C. says that it “does not have enough evidence” to support the approach. It recommends that close contacts who have not been fully vaccinated stay in quarantine for as long as 14 days. (Vaccinated close contacts can remain in the classroom as long as they have no symptoms and wear a mask, according to the agency’s school guidance.)

Still, test-to-stay programs are spreading through the U.S. And countries in Western Europe have invested in rapid antigen testing to keep people out of unnecessary quarantines, as my colleagues at The Morning newsletter explained on Tuesday.

British schools, for instance, have long relied on regular rapid testing instead of masks.

Researchers there found that schools with test-to-stay programs did not have significantly higher case rates than schools with mandatory quarantines. The researchers found that roughly 2 percent of school-based close contacts ultimately tested positive.

And in Utah, where 13 schools conducted test-to-stay events earlier this year, just 0.7 percent of 13,809 students tested positive, researchers reported in May. The program saved more than 100,000 in-person student days last winter, the researchers found.

“That made us feel really confident that continuing in-person learning in these schools was the right call,” said Dr. Adam Hersh, an expert in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah and a co-author of the paper.

Other news about testing and quarantines:

  • Los Angeles: Officials announced a 40 percent drop in pediatric cases in the past three weeks, The Los Angeles Times reports. Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, started on Aug. 16 and tests everyone weekly. Public health officials said that schools would no longer have to send unvaccinated close contacts into quarantine for at least seven days.

  • New York City: On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio changed plans and announced that the district, the nation’s largest, would require weekly testing, up from every other week. He also said unvaccinated close contacts could stay in classrooms as long as they had been masked and kept three feet apart. Previously, the students had to quarantine for 10 days after an exposure.


School bus drivers in San Antonio have been forced to drive multiple routes, leaving students to wait for long periods.Credit…Matthew Busch for The New York Times
  • About 96 percent of Kentucky‘s school districts opted to require masks, even without a statewide order, Kentucky Today reported.

  • Parents in Pennsylvania are suing to try to overturn the state mask mandate, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Legal experts don’t expect the claims to succeed.

  • The 74 has tips to help make masks less stressful for young children.

  • A former men’s and women’s tennis coach at Georgetown University agreed to plead guilty in a college admission scandal.

  • Even though hundreds of colleges have done away with ACT and SAT requirements, students are still taking the tests, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

  • From Times Opinion: “The fight over tenure is not really about tenure,” writes Molly Worthen, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “It’s a proxy for a larger debate about the meaning of academic freedom and the priorities of higher education.”


Credit…Joao Luiz Bulcao/Associated Press

Last week, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Instagram knew its app could be harmful teenage girls. According to the company research, which was not publicly released, Instagram makes body image issues worse for one in three of them.

My colleague Christina Caron spoke to experts about how parents can help their teenagers have a healthier relationship with social media. A few highlights:

  • Ease into it. Rather than giving her a smartphone and letting her download multiple social media apps, consider letting your child text with a close friend on a shared family device to start. Then, let her add one app when she’s ready.

  • Set time limits on apps. Also, remove phones, tablets or other electronic devices from bedrooms at night.

  • Help your teenagers understand and curate their feeds. Tailoring their ad settings can help ward off diet or exercise sites that could encourage unhealthy thoughts or behavior.

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