While Dr. Offit understands that parents are frustrated with the delay in approving a Covid vaccine for young children, it also should be reassuring that the F.D.A. is taking the time necessary to review the vaccine data, he said. The agency doesn’t just rely on the company’s summary of the data. Agency officials look at individual reports from every single child, reviewing the most mundane details of any side effects, blood tests and other data collected during the trial. The data on children are complicated by the fact that different doses are being studied.
“They don’t want to miss anything, because the No. 1 thing is safety,” Dr. Offit said. “You’re giving a vaccine or placebo to thousands of children as a predictor of what’s about to be given to millions of children. I know it seems like it should be faster, but it’s a long process.”
While parents will have to wait a little longer before young children can be vaccinated, studies show that schools have not been a major cause of Covid spreading events, particularly when a number of prevention measures are in place. A combination of precautions — masking indoors, keeping students at least three feet apart in classrooms, keeping students in separate cohorts or “pods,” encouraging hand washing and regular testing, and quarantining — have been effective. While many of those studies occurred before the Delta variant became dominant, they also happened when most teachers, staff and parents were unvaccinated, so public health experts are hopeful that the same precautions will work well this fall.
The overall news is reassuring when it comes to children and the risks of serious complications from Covid-19. Compared to adults, children diagnosed with Covid-19 are more likely to have mild symptoms or none at all. Children are also far less likely to develop severe illness, be hospitalized or die from the disease. In rare cases, some children infected with Covid may develop a serious inflammatory syndrome, but that has been documented in only about 0.1 percent of pediatric cases. While the loss of even one child is devastating, deaths among children from Covid-19 are rare. Since the start of the pandemic, the C.D.C. has documented 454 deaths in the 18 or younger age group, accounting for 0.07 percent of the total 623,984 deaths in all age groups.
Parents can minimize a child’s risk by getting all eligible family members vaccinated. Take precautions daily to avoid crowds, wear a mask and encourage your child to wear a mask at school. Read more about how to keep kids safe in schools.
And to learn more about coping with kids, Covid and back-to-school, join me on Sept. 1 at 2 p.m. Eastern time for a New York Times Instagram live conversation with Lisa Damour, an adolescent therapist and Times columnist. We’ll be taking your questions, sharing the latest science and offering guidance for parents and families navigating the uncertainty of pandemic back-to-school.
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