Despite there being only one vaccine in the country approved for children between the ages of 5 and 11, San Francisco is already looking at the day in the not-too-distant future when a vaccine mandate will apply to those children.
On Tuesday, federal officials gave final approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be given to children aged 5 to 11.
Moderna has developed a shot for children between 6 and 11, but it has not even asked the Food and Drug Administration for approval yet because its vaccine for adolescents aged 12-17 is being held up over concerns that it is linked to a higher-than-normal number of cases of heart inflammation.
Johnson and Johnson is in the process of studying the impact of a vaccine on adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17.
San Francisco currently forces anyone 12 and older to prove they are vaccinated against COVID to enter indoor establishments including bars, restaurants, clubs, and gyms. A vaccine mandate would require children to also show proof of vaccination to enter many businesses and public places.
City Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip said during a Tuesday town hall that a proof-of-vaccination mandate for children is an idea on the horizon and could be implemented early next year, according to SFGate.
“We definitely want to wait and make sure that children have an opportunity to get vaccinated,” Philip said.
“That will happen no sooner than about eight weeks after the vaccine is available to kids. So there will be a limited time in which there will not be those requirements, but then at some point, 5- to 11-year-olds will also have to show proof of vaccination to access some of those same settings.”
During the debate over authorizing the vaccine for children, some voiced concern that mandates would follow.
“I am just worried that if we say yes, then the states are going to mandate administration of this vaccine for children to go to school. And I do not agree with that,” Cody Meissner, a professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine, said during the FDA vaccine committee meeting last week, according to U.S. News and World Report.
“I think that would be an error at this time.”
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has indicated that the Biden administration will push to have children vaccinated.
“We know that vaccination eligibility for our elementary-aged students would be a game changer,” Cardona told the outlet in September. “Not only would it help us keep our schools open and have less quarantining and closures, but it would also help parents breathe a lot easier and increase confidence in communities that their schools are safe.”
But some parents have concerns.
Erin Gauch, of Middletown, Rhode Island, said concerns over side effects give her pause, according to The New York Times.
“I’m looking at a 9-year-old and if I make a bad decision and he ends up with some debilitating side effects or lifelong adverse reaction, I don’t think I could live with that,” she said.
“If we ultimately decide not to get my youngest vaccinated right now, I guess I’ll be subjected to mommy shaming but I’ll just have to deal with it.”
Pro-vaccine parent Abby Cooper of Bergen County, New Jersey, said the issue defines who is and is not in her circle of friends, and those who do not get their children vaccinated are no longer welcome.
“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,” she said.
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