Covid-19 US Vaccination

Will the US start vaccinating children by Jan 1, 2022?

Vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds could be a big step toward returning to normal life in the U.S., but even parents who got the shot are worried about how it might affect their kids.

The Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of a Covid-19 vaccine for ages 5 to 11 on Friday makes 28 million unvaccinated children in the United States suddenly eligible for the shot and offers the country an opportunity to make big inroads in its efforts to achieve broad immunity against the coronavirus.

But in a nation that has already struggled mightily with Covid vaccine hesitancy, getting shots into those little arms may present health authorities with the toughest vaccination challenge yet.

Parents are worried

Even many parents who are themselves vaccinated and approved the shot for their teenagers are churning over whether to give consent for their younger children, questioning if the risk of the unknowns of a brand-new vaccine is worth it when most coronavirus cases in youngsters are mild.

In announcing its authorization of a lower-dose shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech for the age group, the F.D.A. said clinical trial data showed the shot was safe and prompted strong immune responses in children. The most common side effects were fatigue, fever and headache.

Parents are siloing themselves with like-minded friends, which reinforces their thinking. “It used to be that more people with different opinions would mesh, but now I don’t think that is the case,” said Abby Cooper of Bergen County, N.J., who is eager to get her five children vaccinated.

But she has friends who refuse. “Their kids are going to school with my kids and putting them at risk for no reason. It’s very upsetting. So, sadly, I’ve lost friends over this.”

Many parents worry that the tension will infect the children themselves. Some foresee having to set boundaries about unvaccinated playmates, especially if exposure to the virus could jeopardize someone else in the home.

What are the administrators saying?

Parents will be difficult to persuade. The C.D.C. and the American Academy of Pediatrics have published talking points for pediatricians and other proponents of the Covid vaccine for children.

Consensus: First, address the parents’ questions. But if they don’t want to hear The Talk, don’t force it.

Consensus: Fear tactics — generalized descriptions of children suffering in Covid wards — don’t work.

Consensus: Emphasize the benefits of the Covid vaccine to the child in terms of emotional and physical well-being, including some semblance of pre-Covid social life. Invoke quarantines, remote learning.

Should the vaccination begin? When will the government make the move?