Lack of vaccines for young kids make for tough choice between virtual and in-person learning

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Doctors are hopeful COVID-19 vaccines will be available for children ages 12 and older by the time students head back to class after the summer break, but it will likely be quite a bit longer before we see a vaccine for younger students.

That leaves some parents wondering what to do about school.

Edward Thompson and his little brother John do just about everything together, but one thing John can’t do with his big brother is getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Edward’s nearly 16 and counting down the days until his shot. At not quite 9, John has a while to wait.

“Really we are pretty much going to stay in our bubble until the whole family can get vaccinated and who knows when that will be,” said the boys’ mom, Sarah Thompson.

It’s a question many parents wish they could answer, especially as they think about school.

“The hope is that the vaccine will be available for that early adolescent [12-15] age group sometime before the school year starts,” said Duke pediatrician, Dr. Richard Chung.

Pfizer has requested FDA authorization for its vaccine in the 12-15 age group. “I think people expect some determination fairly soon within the order of weeks to within the next month,” he said.

Researchers are now studying the vaccine in younger children. In addition to looking at safety and efficacy, they must determine the right dose for each age group.

Dr. Fauci predicts shots will be available for elementary-age children by the beginning of 2022, maybe even the end of this year, but not by the start of school.

While the state plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions this summer, DHHS Secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohen explained schools may face different guidelines. “We do anticipate additional safety protocols in settings where it’s focused on children like schools and like camps and so forth. We do expect masks to be a portion of those safety precautions,” she said.

Parents of Wake County Public School Students must decide by May 2 whether their children will attend Virtual Academy next year.

Sarah Thompson says it’s hard to make that decision without knowing exactly what safety precautions will be in place.

“I think parents need to know exactly the setup at schools before they can make the decision if it’s going to be safe for their child or not,” said Thompson.

A spokesperson for WCPSS says the district will wait for the state to share recommendations and make a decision based on that information.

It’s not clear when that will take place.

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