RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)-Gov. Ralph Northam is calling on all Virginia school districts to offer in-person learning by March 15th but some kids aren’t expected to be vaccinated for COVID-19 until next year.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently predicted that high school students will start getting shots around when school starts this fall. He said younger children will probably have to wait until the end of the year and “very likely” the first quarter of 2022.
Health officials say vaccinating kids against the coronavirus is critical for reaching herd immunity but some parents are skeptical, including Powhatan father of five Joe Ordia.
“The long term effects of the vaccine are unknown. What we do know is that children have a 99.9 percent survival rate for this disease,” Ordia said. “At this point, I don’t see a compelling reason why we should be using this treatment on children.”
Ordia is among those who fear a vaccine mandate is in Virginia’s future.
As it stands, the state has no immediate plans to require the shot for entry into public schools. According to Gov. Ralph Northam’s office, making that decision now would be premature.
So far, none of the three vaccines in circulation have been approved for emergency use in children. Johnson & Johnson’s and Moderna’s vaccines have only been authorized for those 18 and older, while Pfizer-BioNTech’s has been authorized for those 16 and older.
Clinical Research Partners in Richmond is currently looking for 500 kids to participate in Virginia’s first Moderna trial for children between six months and twelve years-old.
“Not only are you going to be doing something for the greater good but you’re going to be protecting your child,” Bennett said. “This trial and this study is part of all of us working together to get back to normalcy.”
Bennett said parents should feel comfortable signing their kids up.
“I’m confident that the efficacy and safety profiles are high enough where there is no concern,” Dr. Bennett said. “Like anything else, let me say that there are some reactions that take place, most of them are minor.”
That trial kicks off in a few weeks but some school districts are making plans to return to the classroom right now. Others reopened weeks ago.
Dr. Steven Zeichner, a pediatrics professor at the University of Virginia, said it’s not necessary for all children to be vaccinated for in-person learning to resume safely, as long as school districts are following proper precautions. He said it’s a “reasonable possibility” that students will still need to wear masks and practice social distancing well into next school year.
“In that kind of setting, the benefits of children going to school would outweigh the risks,” Zeichner said.