Alison Yin for EdSource
Children ages 5 to 11 are now eligible to receive a Covid vaccine.

With this week’s approval of a Covid vaccine for children, California schools and parents began looking ahead to a new era — one that might mean fewer mask and testing requirements, but one where deep ideological divisions remain.

A day after the Centers for Disease Control gave preliminary approval for children ages 5 to 11 to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, California followed suit and allowed children in California to begin receiving jabs as soon as Thursday. Some counties, including Santa Clara, have already started accepting appointments for children.

“This is going to give a lot of parents peace of mind,” said Dr. Norma Perez, a pediatrician and medical director of AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles. “We’re 20 months into this pandemic, and this is a really important step to get us back to a state of normalcy.”

Vaccinating children will be a crucial step toward achieving herd immunity, where virus transmission tapers off because so many people have been exposed through vaccination or by becoming infected, Perez said.

The federal government plans to give California 1.2 million doses of the children’s vaccine, enough to vaccinate all 5-to-11-year-olds in the next few weeks, health authorities said. Vaccines will be available at more than 4,000 clinics and schools across California, and the state is launching a public information campaign to encourage children and their parents to get vaccinated.

“Vaccines are how we end this pandemic, and the ability to vaccinate more children who have remained vulnerable to Covid-19 strengthens our fight against this deadly virus. Californians ages 5-11 can now get the same robust protection that has helped save countless lives,” California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and director of the California Department of Public Health and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás J. Aragón said in a joint statement Wednesday.

“Last year’s winter surge was devastating in our state, and it is critically important that all eligible Californians supercharge their protection against Covid-19 ahead of the winter months,” they said.

School districts are also encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated, but so far it appears no districts — except Culver City Unified — are requiring it. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last month that Covid vaccinations will be required for children to attend school the first semester after the Food and Drug Administration grants full approval to the vaccines, which could be as soon as January 2022 but will likely be later.

Los Angeles Unified, San Francisco Unified and Fresno Unified are among the districts that will be offering free Covid vaccines for 5-to-11-years-olds over the next few weeks.

“We are delighted to be able to offer voluntary vaccine access to students in this age group,” Los Angeles Unified announced Wednesday. “The Covid-19 vaccine is highly encouraged for children ages 5-11. … Covid-19 vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to protect our students, staff and families, and public schools are natural sites for our students and families to receive this life-saving vaccine.”

Meanwhile, parents’ response to the vaccine approval for children is mixed. Only 27% of parents of 5-to-11-year-olds nationwide said they’d immediately get their child vaccinated against Covid-19 once a vaccine is available, according to a survey released Oct. 28 by the Kaiser Family Foundation. About one-third said they’d never get their child vaccinated, and the rest said they’d wait and see.

In some parts of California, such as Shasta County, students and parents have staged school walkouts to protest vaccine requirements, saying vaccines should be a personal choice, not a public health mandate.

Some parents have expressed concern about possible side effects from the vaccine, including a rare heart inflammation called myocarditis. In trials, no children ages 5-to-11 contracted the illness, although older children, especially boys, are more susceptible, according to the CDC. Most cases are mild and patients recover at home, Perez said.

So far, the most common side effects of the Covid vaccine, for children and adults, are sore arms, fatigue and mild fever, Perez said.

Megan Bacigalupi, director of a statewide parents’ group that advocated for schools in California to reopen, said she was thrilled about the vaccine approval but wants to see the state lift mask requirements for children at school and ease up on Covid testing.

“We have kids getting vaccinated, teachers getting booster shots, adults getting vaccinated at high rates. Schools are becoming incredibly safe,” she said. “I cannot imagine the uproar in, say, eight weeks when people see 18,000 fans at Chase Center not wearing masks but meanwhile a group of 6-year-olds who’ve all been vaccinated still have to wear masks. … It shows we are not prioritizing the needs of children.”

On Oct. 20, the state Department of Public Health said it would consider updating its mask requirements for children by Nov. 1, but so far has not issued any changes to the requirement that children wear masks indoors and outdoors while at school.

It’s probably too early to relax mask and testing protocols because of the looming flu and cold season, Perez said. Also, it will likely take a few months before all children receive their Covid vaccine.

But for now, the CDC’s approval of the Covid vaccine for children is something to celebrate, Perez said.

“The CDC would not have approved this vaccine if it was not safe and effective,” she said. “This is something we’ve been looking forward to for months. … How does it feel to finally be here? It feels wonderful.”

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  1. Brenda Lebsack 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Thank you John for posting my comment. As a former English teacher, I think definitions are important. And for the CDC to say infinite "made up" genders is based on science, raises my suspicion on the kind of science they practice. In April 2021, Merriam Webster changed the definition of "vaccine." The old definition is: Bacteria put into the body to stimulate antibodies. The new definition is: Genetic material (such … Read More

    Thank you John for posting my comment. As a former English teacher, I think definitions are important. And for the CDC to say infinite “made up” genders is based on science, raises my suspicion on the kind of science they practice. In April 2021, Merriam Webster changed the definition of “vaccine.” The old definition is: Bacteria put into the body to stimulate antibodies. The new definition is: Genetic material (such as synthesized messenger RNA) that is used by the body’s cells to produce a spike protein. Bottom line is this new “vaccine” is not like the kind we’ve always known in the past. And it’s understandable why many people do not feel comfortable with a new type of vaccine that has not undergone longitudinal studies.

    Besides the Webster Dictionary, the CDC altered their definition of the word “vaccine” also. Rather than saying that a vaccine “prevents disease” (pre 2015) or “provides immunity” (2015-2021),
    in Sept 2021, the CDC now says vaccines merely “produce protection.” from a specific disease. In my opinion, that’s a significant changeof what we have expected in the past from a “vaccine.”
    https://sharylattkisson.com/2021/09/read-cdc-changes-definition-of-vaccines-to-fit-covid-19-vaccine-limitations/

  2. Nicole Bode 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I’m so saddened by parents who are willing to have their child be part of this experiment. The approximately 100 children that have lost their lives in the past 22 months and have also had Covid-19 at the time of death is a number lower than the average number of suicides for the same age range (5-11) which can be verified through the CDC website. Although all child deaths are tragic, this drug being administered … Read More

    I’m so saddened by parents who are willing to have their child be part of this experiment. The approximately 100 children that have lost their lives in the past 22 months and have also had Covid-19 at the time of death is a number lower than the average number of suicides for the same age range (5-11) which can be verified through the CDC website. Although all child deaths are tragic, this drug being administered should not be mandated and should not be using children as Guinea pigs.

  3. Brenda Lebsack 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Perez says, "“The CDC would not have approved this vaccine if it was not safe and effective,” Well, let's look at other things the CDC has approved as "safe and effective"... They have approved a new definition of "gender".. the term "non-binary" which is now on all our student data forms, means "gender-creative" according to the CDC. Which means kids can create or make up their own genders and pronouns. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/terminology/sexual-and-gender-identity-terms.htm … Read More

    Perez says, ““The CDC would not have approved this vaccine if it was not safe and effective,” Well, let’s look at other things the CDC has approved as “safe and effective”… They have approved a new definition of “gender”.. the term “non-binary” which is now on all our student data forms, means “gender-creative” according to the CDC. Which means kids can create or make up their own genders and pronouns. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/terminology/sexual-and-gender-identity-terms.htm My respect and trust for the CDC is at an all time low. However, I know this comment will not get printed because “powers that be” want to keep all us “little people” in the dark. Just do what you’re told. Ignorance is bliss.

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      Brenda, Your implication that EdSource won't print your comments because of your point of view is interesting. EdSource has published, to my counting, 84 comments from you in the first 10 months of this year. You are by far the most prolific commenter to our site. Our guidelines for comments are clear (go here if you need a reminder). One of the criteria is that a comment must be germane to the article it's responding … Read More

      Brenda,

      Your implication that EdSource won’t print your comments because of your point of view is interesting. EdSource has published, to my counting, 84 comments from you in the first 10 months of this year. You are by far the most prolific commenter to our site.

      Our guidelines for comments are clear (go here if you need a reminder). One of the criteria is that a comment must be germane to the article it’s responding to.

      Sometimes that’s a judgment call. In this case, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a large agency with more than 10,000 employees (check #) and 16 divisions. You point to a document of gender terminology by the Division of Adolescent and School Health as proof that the CDC has no credibility on other scientific and medical matters, including vaccinations.

      I think it’s not germane, and a disingenuous conclusion, but in this case, we have decided to post your comment and let others draw their own conclusions.

  4. Garrett Carr 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Please stop referring to the vaccine as a "jab." This does not ease the minds of parents who may be weary of this so called "vaccine." Or don't and see the millions of parents continue to question the vaccine. Food for thought... Read More

    Please stop referring to the vaccine as a “jab.” This does not ease the minds of parents who may be weary of this so called “vaccine.” Or don’t and see the millions of parents continue to question the vaccine. Food for thought…