“I have a large family, one that I haven’t been able to see in over a year. I’ve missed out on being with my friends, spending time with family, going to school and so much more,” 15-year-old Malyna Trujillo said at a news conference
in LA. “This vaccination isn’t just for me, it’s for my family — for my community.”
On Wednesday, an advisory committee to the CDC endorsed the FDA’s decision, clearing the way for vaccinations to start in earnest. After the committee’s vote, Henry Bernstein, a member of the panel and a Professor of Pediatrics at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell said he was excited that younger people could now get the vaccine.
“This will provide protection for 12 to 15 year olds. It’ll decrease transmission within their families. It’ll contribute to community immunity, and it allows the kids to more safely go back to camps this summer, and back to in-person school.” Bernstein said.
Not everyone was thrilled with the decision. “I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents, but right now I urge them to reconsider” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organisation, said this week
. He asked that countries donate vaccines to other countries instead.
“In low and lower-middle income countries, Covid-19 vaccine supply has not been enough to even immunize healthcare workers, and hospitals are being inundated with people that need lifesaving care urgently,” he said
People on the CDC committee acknowledged the disparity in comments after the vote. “If we look at what’s happening elsewhere in the world, that’s evidence of what happens if you don’t have adequate supplies of safe and effective vaccines” said Matthew Daley, a pediatrician and researcher at Kaiser Permanente’s Institute for Health Research. “We’re in this very privileged position where we can see declining deaths and declining case rates because of these vaccines.”
Younger people are not at as great a risk of developing severe complications of COVID-19 as older people. But less risk is not zero risk, and as vaccinations have accelerated in the United States, doctors have seen spikes in infections in unvaccinated children.
For parents, securing an early vaccine slot was a first chance to provide their kids a little bit more freedom after a year of caution. Kids were excited at the prospect of sleepovers, shopping
, and anything that looks like pre-pandemic life.
“The reason why I got it was because I want to see my friend, which I haven’t seen for a while. We’ve only been able to call each other,” 13-year-old Evan Yaney told WILX in Lansing
That loneliness is something that experts hope this next stage of the vaccine rollout might combat. At the meeting of the CDC’s advisory panel this week, Grace Lee, a Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University pointed out that we still don’t know the long-term effects of this pandemic on younger age groups. “I think sometimes we lose the importance of children and adolescents in the midst of a pandemic. There’s been such a focus on older adults in particular, I think that the childhood experience our kids have gone through will have long-lasting consequences that may extend across generations,” said Lee.
It has been a brutally hard year for children, many of whom have been kept apart from friends and family, suffered educational setbacks
, or witnessed trauma. For them, the chance to get a vaccine offers them hope — for themselves, and also for the future.
“I have been extremely careful throughout this whole thing,” 13-year-old Pia Andrade told Houston’s KPRC
as she got vaccinated this week. “My principal actually died from COVID. He was perfectly fine and he got it and was hospitalized and he just died. I’ve seen the effects firsthand, and the more of us that get vaccinated, the better the world will be.”