COVID vaccines for younger kids could be the secret to ending the U.S. pandemic

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What if opening up vaccination to younger kids represents something more than just peace of mind for parents? What if it's actually the pandemic off-ramp...
On Monday, Pfizer announced that its COVID-19 vaccine is both safe and effective in children ages 5 to 11 — and no less of an authority than Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious disease expert, predicted "there's a really good chance" younger kids would finally be getting vaccinated "before Halloween."

Initial reports greeted the news as "​​a ray of hope" for "weary parents" who have endured months of uncertainty about when their long-ineligible children might finally get inoculated — and who recently had no choice but to send them back to school unvaccinated while the hypercontagious Delta variant was hospitalizing a record 30,000 of their peers each month.

But what if opening up vaccination to younger kids represents something more than just peace of mind for parents? What if it's actually the pandemic off-ramp that all vaccinated Americans have been waiting for — the dividing line between 18 endless months in emergency mode and whatever kind of less disruptive coexistence with COVID comes next?

"There are huge implications here on how we view COVID and live with COVID," says Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor who previously served as Baltimore's health commissioner. "Having the vaccine available for children isn't just critical for parents. It's critical for everybody."

One could argue that many Americans — especially unvaccinated Americans — are already living like the pandemic is over. But we aren't back to normal yet. Millions are still working remotely. Masks are still commonplace in public and in school; many areas still require them indoors. And individual Americans are still limiting their own lives because of COVID, nearly a year after vaccines first became available.

A health care worker administers a dose of a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a child at a pediatrician's office in Bingham Farms, Mich., on May 19. (Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The reason? Some of it comes down to the current…
Andrew Romano
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