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Pfizer’s COVID Vaccine is now Available for Kids. Will Schools Require It?

Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children ages 5 to 11, and shot clinics have started, leading to more questions about vaccine mandates in schools. Dr. Lynn Silver of PHI’s Safely Opening Schools program comments on the need for vaccination for safer schools.

  • USA Today
three kids in medical masks working at an elementary school table

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children ages 5 to 11, and shot clinics have started. The next question, for many parents: Will their kids be required to get the shots to attend school?

Seventeen states have passed laws or issued directives banning schools or colleges from requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Some of the
laws only apply to vaccines under emergency authorization, though others do not.

Still, especially in states without such bans, “I would expect to see increasing movement toward adding COVID-19 to the list of vaccinations for older schoolchildren,” said Lynn Silver, a pediatrician and senior advisor and director of the Safely Opening Schools program at the Public Health Institute. “The question is how quickly to move forward for 5- to 11-year-olds.”

Lynn Silver
For schools to be safe, to ensure continuity in education, … requiring vaccines as soon as possible will be a key step. We don’t want schools to have to be public health agencies; we want them to focus on what they do best, which is student learning.

Dr. Lynn Silver, director, Safely Opening Schools

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in October that the COVID vaccine would be added to the list of immunizations required to attend the state’s schools once it’s fully approved for all kids in a “grade span.” The mandate is expected to go into effect in July 2022 for grades 7-12.

After a wave of measles outbreaks in California – caused largely by children whose
immunization requirement had been waived – the state strengthened its law and removed the “personal belief” exemption. The number of unvaccinated kindergartners, according to Silver, fell by nearly half.

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Originally published by USA Today

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