The FDA has given emergency use authorization (EUA) to the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5-11, and once the CDC green lights the process, we expect some of the first shots to be administered as early as this week. CA has announced a vaccine mandate for anyone who wants to attend in-person school. While many parents are anxious to get their children vaccinated, others see this as a weighty decision or may not want to vaccinate at all. Here is an update on what we know so far about the pediatric vaccine and some other pandemic-related issues.
The vaccine was subject to the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. The FDA found zero deaths or significant adverse events in the trials for kids. Kids will generally experience similar types of side effects from the vaccine as teens and adults—but likely with less severity, in part because the immune system doesn't fully develop until puberty. Throughout the history of vaccines, side effects are extremely rare after 6 weeks, and there is no evidence of vaccines affecting a child’s future fertility.
When does the CA mandate go into effect for elementary schools?
The mandate does not go into effect until the semester after the vaccine receives full FDA approval (not EUA) for each age group. For ages 5-11, we do not anticipate the mandate going into effect until fall 2022 at the earliest. When it does go into effect, it will apply to children attending any in-person school in CA. At this time, WHPS is planning to follow California's timeline in requiring the vaccine for children when full FDA approval is granted, which we anticipate may be for the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
Will there be any exemptions?
Governor Newsom put forth the mandate through the regulatory process, whereas other school vaccine requirements and the elimination of the personal beliefs exemption were passed through the CA Legislature. There is still time for further legislation to pass, eliminating certain exemptions, and schools don't have a way to predict whether that will happen. WHPS, like all schools in CA, will be subject to following the requirements and laws in place at the time.
When might the mask requirement go away?
On last week's DPH school briefing, Dr. Ferrer indicated that indoor masking would almost certainly remain in effect through the end of 2021. It is possible that fully vaccinated children and teachers may be able to be unmasked indoors sometime in 2022.
When do quarantines go away?
Currently, fully vaccinated people do not have to quarantine after travel or exposure to someone with COVID-19, as long as they do not develop any symptoms. We anticipate this will be the case for children who are fully vaccinated, which will mean fewer interruptions to school. As you plan for the upcoming holidays, remember that unvaccinated children must quarantine if traveling out of state. Be sure to account for a 7-10 day quarantine if you are traveling with unvaccinated children.
What about preschools?
Trials are still taking place for children under 5. We will continue to update you as new information becomes available.
Knowledge is power!
We believe high vaccination rates are one of the best ways for schools to return to normal for our children. We also respect the varying viewpoints and concerns of our families. We will continue to provide as much meaningful education and information to our families as possible. For now, we strongly encourage you to speak with your pediatrician about any questions you may have. Our friends at Agoura-West Valley Pediatrics are planning to host a live Facebook session soon. We will post the date once we have it, but in the meantime, you can submit questions on their Facebook page.