Like the adult vaccine, the dose given to children is delivered as two injections spaced 21 days apart. Though there is some immune response within days of the first shot, the benefits of full vaccination aren’t available until some time after the second shot. So it’s unlikely that many children will be enjoying peak protection before Thanksgiving.
However, assuming an EUA is issued in October and pediatric doses of vaccine begin to roll out across the nation soon after, there should be good availability before the new year. That leaves open the possibility that as schools bring back students from their holiday break in January, vaccine requirements could be a common for students in kindergarten through college.
Currently, the CDC recommendations do not suggest that schools mandate vaccination. However, the primary reason is that many schools—particularly schools in smaller, rural areas—serve students under 12 in the same building as older students. Following an EUA for children down to age 5, this obstacle will drop away and universal vaccination could easily be added to the CDC recommendations.
In the meantime, the CDC does recommend universal vaccination for staff members, and universal masking for both students and staff. Recent CDC studies have shown that schools with mask mandates are much less likely to have to close because of COVID-19 outbreaks, that communities connected to these schools are less likely to be affected by community spread, and that rates of both infection and hospitalization of students is reduced.
Unfortunately, the list of schools that require masking is limited, especially since multiple Republican governors have attempted to prevent school boards from being able to take this step in protecting students. Similarly, the list of colleges that currently require COVID-19 vaccine for all students shows some sharp geographic boundaries. Though there are dozens of such schools in many states, there are exactly none in Idaho, or Arkansas. or Kansas, or North Dakota, or South Dakota, or Wyoming. Other states, such as Florida, have only one or two schools where vaccination is required.
There’s really no excuse for colleges not to require vaccinations against COVID-19—especially since almost all of these schools require vaccination for a half-dozen or more other diseases. But should the EUA get issued and the CDC revise their guidance, it could usher in a wave of vaccinations at schools from primary grades on.
Defeating diseases like mumps or the measles takes a very high level of vaccination. The same is true of COVID-19. That level of vaccination can only be achieved if children are included in the ranks of the vaccinated. And vaccinating kids is one of the things that models suggest could help the U.S. avoid another “winter spike” in cases and keep trending down toward finally getting this disease under control.