The U.S. Can — and Must — Keep Kids Safe From Covid
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Throughout the pandemic, it’s been comforting to know that children weather Covid-19 infection better than adults do. They often suffer no symptoms, and those they have are typically moderate. But the emergence of the delta variant has complicated matters. It’s spreading so fast that kids, most of whom can’t be vaccinated, are being infected in rising numbers — 121,000 in the past week, amounting to 18% of total reported cases in the U.S. Of course, as the numbers grow bigger, even rare serious cases become more common.
This explains increasing reports of children being hospitalized, and experiencing lingering headaches, fatigue and other symptoms of “long Covid.” That kids now are more vulnerable than ever is all the more reason to step up efforts to vaccinate adults, and to take all reasonable measures to protect children in schools and other public places.
It’s also reason to accelerate vaccine approvals for children under 12, if it can be done safely. Although clinical trials are underway, Food and Drug Administration officials are understandably asking for larger studies involving children before moving forward. They should keep the public up to date, be transparent about how long it’s going to take, and make every effort to speed things up.
Meanwhile, it’s important to get as many adolescents inoculated as possible before school begins. So far, only 32% of 12- to 15-year-olds and 43% of 16- to 17-year-olds are fully vaccinated. School mandates for Covid vaccines could be as effective as those for chickenpox, measles, polio and whooping cough — which exist in all 50 states. The need for teachers to have their shots is plain, as teachers themselves mostly seem to agree.
State governors who have tried to ban classroom mask requirements — Florida, Texas and South Carolina stand out — are allowing politics to undermine their responsibility to protect children. Schools and communities are right to resist. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with public health in mind, recommends universal indoor mask-wearing in schools, three feet of physical distance between students, regular Covid testing, good ventilation and handwashing.
The same guidelines should apply in all indoor public places where children congregate. If proof of vaccination were required for all restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms — as New York City is demanding — then children, and everyone else, would be safer.
Republican governors have also unhelpfully moved to ban the use of vaccine certificates and passports. State governments, which already possess people’s vaccine information, should be doing the opposite: creating official digital documents that people can easily use to show they’ve gotten their shots. So far, only a handful of states have provided such credentials; rolling them out on a larger scale would go a long way toward getting back to normal.
The unfortunate truth is that Covid will continue to pose some risk to children until they’re fully vaccinated. In the meantime, it’s essential to do everything possible to protect them from infection.
Editorials are written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.
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