The timeline for children to get vaccinated is becoming more clear as educators are poised to become eligible this week in Massachusetts.
The nation's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about Massachusetts' reopening plan for schools during a virtual panel hosted by Tufts University Monday.
High school students will likely get a dose by the start of the next school year, while younger children should get one by early 2022, according to the president’s chief medical advisor.
"I think as we get more and more people vaccinated, as we now have the relief bill signed at $1.9 trillion -- a lot of that is going into addressing COVID-19 including help to the schools to allow them to more safely bring the kids back," Fauci said, referencing the coronavirus relief package passed by the U.S. Senate Saturday.
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"I would hope that we would get most of the children back to school in a very reasonably short period of time," Fauci said. "And by the time we get to the fall term, we'll feel very very comfortable about it."
Dr. Kristin Moffitt, an infectious diseases doctor with Boston Children’s Hospital, called Fauci's outline "very reasonable and practical," because Pfizer and Moderna have already completed enrollment and begun collecting data in their adolescent trials.
Pfizer’s vaccine has so far only been approved for people 16 years or older, while other vaccines are for adults over the age of 18.
"They are following the subjects who enrolled in those trials and the data from those trials about how effective the vaccines are in adolescents should be available within the next couple of months,” Moffitt said.
Researchers will then move onto trials in progressively younger and younger groups of children.
“We need to find what the right dose is, we need to make sure that these vaccines do indeed prevent infection or illness in children, and we need to make sure that they’re safe,” said Dr. Brian Chow, an infectious disease attending physician at Tufts Medical Center.
Parents we spoke with in Worcester are still torn over whether to vaccinate their own children once they’re eligible.
“We’re guinea pigs, so we’re waiting to see if it’s effective or not,” Yajaira Gonzalez said.
“If vaccinations are the way to go to help us move forward, I’m happy to do that as well,” said Sean Rose, a parent and city councilor in Worcester.
In the meantime, Chow said, parents need to remember transmission in schools has been very low.
“I think Dr. Fauci was advocating for vaccines as one part of a multi-layered approach to reopening our schools,” he said.
During the Distinguished Speaker Series event, Fauci also discussed his experiences leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, his career in public health and the importance of science advocacy.
Massachusetts is aiming to bring elementary students back to class by April 5.
The state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted Friday to approve emergency regulations granting the education commissioner authority to determine when hybrid and remote models may no longer count towards required student learning time hours.
Teachers have argued each district should decide their own timeline on getting back in the classroom.
K-12 teachers, school staff and child care workers become eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine Thursday in Massachusetts. Several unions are pushing to have firefighters help administer the shots. The fire departments say they have the manpower to host clinics, they just need the supply and they are meeting with state health officials this week to discuss their proposal.