This week, the FDA approved the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine for people ages 12-15, a time many families have been eagerly awaiting since the vaccine’s introduction in the US. When shots became available, parents rushed to give their children the vaccine. But the decision has also contributed to ongoing discussions about how best to distribute vaccines around the world.
In Santa Barbara, a 14-year-old got one vaccine for his birthday. There are schools in Colorado setting up vaccine clinics. In Los Angeles, high school students were eager to take their chance to live a normal life again.
‘I have a large family, a family I haven’t been able to see for over a year. I missed being with my friends, spending time with family, going to school and so much more, ”15-year-old Malyna Trujillo said at a press conference in LA. “This vaccination isn’t just for me, it’s for my family – for my community.”
On Wednesday, an advisory committee from the CDC approved the FDA’s decision, paving the way for vaccinations to begin in earnest. After the committee vote, Henry Bernstein, a panel member and professor of pediatrics at Zucker School of Medicine in Hofstra / Northwell, said he was excited that younger people could now get the vaccine.
“This provides protection for 12-15 year olds. It reduces transmission within their families. It will contribute to community immunity and enable the children to get back to camps and back to personal school more safely this summer. Bernstein said.
Not everyone was enthusiastic about 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 Organization, said this week. He asked countries to donate vaccines to other countries instead.
“In low- and lower-middle-income countries, the supply of Covid-19 vaccines has not been enough to even immunize health workers, and hospitals are inundated with people in urgent need of life-saving care.” he said.
People on the CDC committee acknowledged the inequality in post-vote comments. “Looking at what is happening elsewhere in the world is proof of what happens when you don’t have enough safe and effective vaccines,” said Matthew Daley, pediatrician and researcher at Kaiser Permanente’s Institute for Health Research. “We are in this very privileged position where we can see decreasing deaths and decreasing numbers of cases through these vaccines.”
Younger people are not as much at risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19 as the elderly. But less risk isn’t zero risk, and as vaccinations have accelerated in the United States, doctors have seen it peaks in infections in unvaccinated children.
For parents, getting their hands on an early vaccination slot was a first chance to give their children a little more freedom after a year of caution. Kids were thrilled at the prospect of sleepovers, shopping, and anything that looks like a pre-pandemic life.
‘The reason I got it was because I want to see my boyfriend, who I haven’t seen in a while. We only got to call each other, ”said 13-year-old Evan Yaney WILX in Lansing.
That loneliness is something experts hope this next phase of the vaccine rollout can be combated. At this week’s meeting of the CDC’s advisory panel, 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 we sometimes lose the importance of children and adolescents during a pandemic. There is so much focus on older adults in particular, I think the childhood that our children have experienced will have long-lasting consequences that can span generations, ”said Lee.
It has been a brutally difficult year for children, many of whom have been kept separate from friends and family, experienced educational setbacks or witnessed trauma. For them, the chance to receive a vaccine offers them hope – for themselves, but also for the future.
“I have been extremely careful throughout this whole thing,” said 13-year-old Pia Andrade Houston’s KPRC as she was vaccinated this week. ‘My director actually passed away from COVID. He was fine and he got it and was hospitalized and he just died. I’ve seen the effects firsthand, and the more of us vaccinated, the better the world will be. “
The epidemiological impact of the NHS COVID-19 app
This research paper in Nature this week shows how well the NHS contact tracking app worked. The researchers found that it worked just as well as manual contact tracking methods, and calculated that it was may have saved thousands of lives. They suggest that similar apps could be used in other countries to mitigate the pandemic while the world waits for vaccines. (Fraser et al, Nature)
According to the study, most children with coronavirus infections miss the typical symptoms of COVID-19
People under 18 make up about 13 percent of COVID-19 cases in the US. But they don’t always show the same symptoms as adults. In particular, they are much less likely to develop a fever, making temperature studies less effective at catching cases. (Karen Kaplan / Los Angeles Times)
How COVID broke the evidence pipeline
After more than a year of pandemic research, scientists are starting to take stock of the abundance of COVID-19-related medical research. They find out that some of it wasn’t that great. There were too many studies on individual (useless) drugs, studies with too few subjects for significant results, or overview studies that quickly became obsolete. There were also great successes, but scientists hope they can learn from the failures the next time an emergency arises. (Helen Pearson /Nature)
The free beer offering resulted in more vaccinations last week than all first-dose clinics in Erie County
We’ve previously written about some of the creative promotions health departments are using to get people vaccinated. Here’s a realistic example from Buffalo, NY of how well these programs work. (Bonus: A Slate interview with a health commissioner who shared shots.) (Sandra Tan /Buffalo News)
They have not yet received a Covid vaccine. But they are also not ‘hesitant’.
About 30 million people in the US say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine, but haven’t quite taken the plunge yet. Their reasons vary, but many in this group face hurdles such as language barriers, difficult work schedules or general lack of access. (Amy Harmon and Josh Holder /The New York Times)
Coronavirus vaccines protect pregnant women, another study suggests
New studies add to a growing body of evidence that coronavirus vaccines protect pregnant people. A new paper showed that pregnant people can pass on antibodies to their fetus and that breast milk can pass on antibodies to infants. Another study found that the vaccine does not damage the placenta. (Emily Anthes /The New York Times)
This week, the CDC changed its guidelines for fully vaccinated people, saying they don’t need to wear masks in many settings. But masking does not disappear overnight. Here are a few perspectives from people who continue to mask themselves for various reasons.
Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker or maybe because I always feel like I have to present my best self to the world, but it was such a relief to feel anonymous. It’s as if I have a force field around me that says ‘don’t see me’. “
– ‘Francesca’ a professor, tells The Guardian why she keeps wearing a mask.
‘I know it’s a low percentage, but there are children who have had it and have been affected. And if it was your child? I’d take a chance on myself. But my kids? Never.”
– Jani Able, mother of two 7 year olds tells USA Today why her family will continue to wear masks.
‘I’m still afraid my husband will die even though we got vaccinated … Just because I’ve read so many stories about the deaths of people’s husbands. Or I’m worried that my child will be that one child who gets the rare syndrome and visions of myself in the hospital. I have an overactive fantasy. I tend to be anxious and impressionable. But I think a lot of people, not just me, have similar thoughts. “
– Frani, a woman in New York City talk to Vice about why she still wears a mask.
More than numbers
To the people who use it 1.41 billion vaccine doses spread so far – thank you.
To the more than 161,951,393 people worldwide who have tested positive, may your path to recovery go smoothly.
The families and friends of the 3,359,318 people who have died worldwide – 585,233 of those in the US – are not forgotten about your loved ones.
Stay safe, everyone.