Children ages 5-11 are now eligible to get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, following the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The decision comes following a Pfizer study whose clinical trial results examined whether the COVID-19 vaccine was safe and effective for this age range. The study had 2,268 participants who received a third of the dosage rather than a full dose. Despite this, the vaccine proved to be just as effective for them as the vaccine in adults.
The vaccine approval is a relief to many, as local elementary schools have many restrictions due to students’ prior inability to get vaccinated. Bre Lawrence, an elementary school teacher at Cipriani Elementary School, shared her thoughts on how the announcement will affect her students.
“The beginning of the year was definitely nerve-wracking. I was worried about the possibility of COVID-19 cases in the classroom that would lead to us moving our classroom online and how that would affect my students’ mental health,” Lawrence said. “I am eager for them to have the opportunity to receive the vaccine [since I] know how effective it’s been for other age groups so far. I have quite a few students that have a lot of anxiety around COVID-19, so I’m hoping it will ease some worry when they have an extra layer of protection.”
The approval of the vaccine also provides students with an extra layer of security. Olivia Barton, a seventh-grader at Ralston Middle School, discussed how having a portion of the school unvaccinated can be a bit unsettling for her.
“In my daily life, I don’t really consider it. Then when thinking about it, there are two grade levels that are vaccinated, but then, at least one-third of Ralston students are unvaccinated and are not fully protected from COVID-19, and can be a carrier. I mean, sometimes that can be scary to think about,” Barton said.
Emma Goldman, a Carlmont freshman, explained how her 11-year-old sister, a sixth-grader at Ralston, felt being the only unvaccinated person in her family.
“She often felt excluded being the only one in our family unvaccinated, [since] there were a lot of privileges she couldn’t have access to,” Goldman said. “She also felt as if she was disappointing others by not being able to help the general population overcome the pandemic.”
Although children in this age range are less likely to die from COVID-19 than other groups, the extra protection of the vaccine would decrease the likelihood of contracting the disease for many younger students. For some, the idea of a vaccine for young children opens the possibility of a return to greater normalcy.
Goldman noted that going to events as a family unit would be more convenient after her sister is vaccinated.
“A lot of the time, there would be exclusive parties or events for vaccinated people, where she would either have to go out of her way to get a negative COVID-19 test or not to go at all. It’s nice that our whole family will be on the same page [once she gets vaccinated],” Goldman said.
Lawrence described some of the activities her class would now be able to participate in once everyone is vaccinated. These sorts of events were especially important, as many students have missed various experiences due to the pandemic and distance learning.
“We finally have the opportunity to go back to Outdoor Ed this year, but not until May. I want to do everything I can not to jeopardize that opportunity for my students. The most important thing to me this year is giving students the school experiences they’ve missed out on for the last year and a half. I want them to love school again and all of the fun social opportunities that come with that,” Lawrence said.
As for the implementation of the vaccines, Belmont Redwood Shores School District (BRSSD) superintendent sent an announcement letting parents know about a vaccine clinic at Ralston Middle School on Nov. 11, which is currently fully booked.
Additionally, according to the San Mateo County Health (SMCH) website, there is another vaccine clinic held by the county, offering the first doses of the pediatric vaccine on Nov. 6 and Nov. 10 by appointment. The clinic has various themes like “Legoland, Candy Land, Superheroes, and Roblox” to help make the environment more inviting and child-friendly.
Furthermore, according to San Mateo County health officials, having elementary-aged students vaccinated helps the county as a whole. It is part of a three-step process to lift indoor mask mandates in the county. While this shift wouldn’t affect school mask mandates, it is still a significant step towards normalcy.
As vaccines become available to more people in the U.S., Goldman noted that everyone must do their part to get vaccinated.
Goldman said, “I think it’s important to trust the science and to do it on account of helping everyone. We can’t overcome the pandemic individually, only together.”