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When are vaccines coming for kids?

July 23, 2021, 5:56 PM UTC

As back-to-school season kicks off in-person in many districts around the country, many parents and teachers are questioning when COVID vaccines for children will be available. 

Currently, COVID vaccines are available for Americans ages 12 and older, meaning that many middle- and high-school students can be vaccinated before the start of the school year. 

Yet the vaccination levels remain low. Only about 26% of 12 to 15-year-olds are fully vaccinated and only about 38% of those in the 16-17 age range have received both doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For children under the age of 12, it’s still a waiting game. Parents received some hopeful news from President Joe Biden this week, who said the FDA should issue approval on vaccines for children “soon.”

“The expectation — they’re not promising me any specific date — but my expectation, talking to the group of scientists we put together — over 20 of them, plus others in the field — is that sometime maybe in the beginning of the school year — at the end of August, beginning of September, October — they’ll get a final approval,” Biden said Wednesday. 

But an FDA official told NBC News last week vaccines are not expected to be ready until midwinter, a timeline that Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed in comments this week. Children as young as 4 years old “would likely be able to get vaccinated by the time we reach the end of calendar year 2021 and at the latest, into the first quarter of 2022,” Fauci said. 

That makes sense given that Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech launched trials of their Covid-19 vaccines for kids under 12 in March, with the results expected back in fall. Pfizer is gearing up to provide the U.S. with another 200 million doses of its COVID vaccine through next April, 65 million of which will be geared toward pediatric patients, a White House official told Bloomberg.

It’s also worth noting that once these vaccines are available, the uptake may not be immediate. Some 27% of parents with young children say they’ll immediately get their children vaccinated as soon as it’s available, according to the latest KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor report. But many responded that they want to “wait and see” or didn’t want to get their children vaccinated right away unless mandated.

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