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Late last week, my wife received the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, and I experienced a little taste of vaccine envy. Yes, she was totally eligible. She works at an elementary school, and she spent three weeks in the hospital in late October because of septic shock, putting her at high risk for COVID complications. So it was a huge relief for the whole family the moment we actually got her a vaccine appointment. I couldn’t help but wonder when in the world I would get vaccinated; but as a 38-year-old man with no underlying health conditions, and a job he can perform from home, it’s probably going to be a while. And once I got done wondering about myself, I couldn’t help but wonder when my children would be eligible. I have three of them, ages 6, 11, and 13. And I’m sure every other parent is wondering the same thing.
Like so many people have done in the past year with all COVID related news, we turn to the good Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s leading epidemiologist, for answers. In late February, Fauci provided a loose timeline during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press. “If you project realistically, when we will be able to get enough data to be able to say that elementary school children will be able to be vaccinated, I would think that would be, at the earliest, the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022.”
As of this moment the FDA has granted emergency authorization to three COVID-19 vaccines. According to CNBC, the newly approved Johnson and Johnson vaccine, and the Moderna are both approved for adults 18 and older. But the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which happens to be the shot my wife received last week, is approved for those 16 years and older.
Right now, we need to be getting as many adults vaccinated as possible; according to CDC data, children don’t usually get as ill with COVID as adults. But children can still contract and spread the virus — and some can become very sick with it, requiring ICU care, experiencing long-term symptoms, and even dying of the virus. Plus, if we ever want to get our children back to school, and the world spinning the way it did before March of 2020, then we are going to need an approved vaccine for them. Getting kids vaccinated is all part of the overall goal of herd immunity. And until we reach that goal, social distancing, mask wearing, and school closures are still going to be part of our lives.
I agree with all of the COVID-19 precautions — we have had enough death and suffering because of this virus — but I will also go on the record and say I’m pretty tired of living this way. I miss social interaction, and I miss dropping my children off at school, and actually going into the office. And chances are, many of you share my sentiment. But until adults and children alike can get vaccinated, this is our lot in life.
To give you an idea of where we are with getting an approval for a children’s vaccine, according to AXIOS, Pfizer and Moderna began looking for participants for their clinical trials late last year. And Oxford University, which developed a vaccine with AstraZeneca, was scheduled to begin tests on 12-to-18-year-olds this month. Now that Johnson & Johnson has been granted approval for their vaccine to be used on adults in the US, they are gearing up to begin trials on children as I write this sentence — including infants. The overall goal right now is to begin with teenagers, and work their way down in age.
So going back to Dr Fauci’s interview with Meet the Press, he is optimistic that teenagers will begin to receive the vaccine at the beginning of the school year. “I’m not sure it’s exactly on the first day school opens, but pretty close to that,” he said.
All in all, my friends, there is movement. There is hope. Chances are you know someone who has already been vaccinated, and that’s huge. And if you are as lucky as my amazing wife, you have already been vaccinated yourself. The reality is, it’s going to be awhile before we will be getting shots in the arms of our children, and that means it’s going to be awhile before we can go back to some sort of normalcy when it comes to in person school and playdates/socializing. But we’ve hung in there this long, and now we – and our kids — can at least see a glimmer of light at the end of the long, long tunnel.