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Children under age 12 years will “very likely” be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday.
Some vaccine companies have already begun clinical trials to assess whether their shots are safe and effective in children, and the results will be available sometime this year.
“If you project realistically when we’ll get enough data to be able to say that elementary school children will be able to be vaccinated, I would think that would be, at the earliest, the end of the year, and very likely, the first quarter of 2022,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
High school students will likely be able to get vaccinated this fall, Fauci added.
“I’m not sure it’ll exactly be on the first day that school opens but pretty close to that,” he said.
Children generally don’t face high risks for severe COVID-19, but vaccinating them could protect adults and help schools to resume normal in-person schedules. It could also move the country closer to herd immunity, which creates an “umbrella of protection” across the community, Fauci said.
“But before you get to true herd immunity, you could still get a terrific example of getting less and less cases as more and more people get vaccinated,” he said.
The US has distributed more than 96.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Sunday. Nearly 50 million people have received their first dose in the current two-shot regimen, and 24.7 million people have received their second dose.
As vaccines roll out across the country, Fauci encouraged Americans to continue to wear face masks, avoid crowds, and follow social distancing guidelines. Although new COVID-19 cases have decreased from peak levels in January, they still remain high at about 70,000 new cases per day, he said.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Fauci said. “When you start to see a decline in the number of cases, if you prematurely lift the restrictions, we have a few examples of the rebound back.”
Precautionary measures are particularly important as new coronavirus variants are emerging in California and New York, he added.
“We understand the need and the desire, understandably, to want to just pull back because things are going in the right direction,” he said. “But you’ve got to get that baseline down lower than it is now.”