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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It'll likely be a long time before children are vaccinated against COVID-19, even though vaccinating kids could eventually play an integral role in reducing the virus' spread.

The big picture: None of the leading contenders in the U.S. are being tested for their effectiveness in children. Even once one of them gains authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, there will only be a limited number of available doses.

It's normal for vaccines to be tested on adults before being tested on children.

Why it matters: Children have a relatively low risk of severe coronavirus infections. But they can still spread the disease to more vulnerable adults. Vaccinating kids could play an integral role in reducing community spread, and of reopening schools.

  • For now, the consensus is that those vulnerable adults — which could include teachers and school staff — will likely be able to get a vaccine early in the process. Eventually, though, vaccinating children would be helpful.
  • "If you protect children, then you will reduce community spread and protect adults, so it's more of a herd immunity rather than a specific immunity question," explains John Moore, a professor of immunobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College. "If you need 70% protection in herd immunity, at some point you will need to include children in that."

What they're saying: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, recently told Axios that her union would support requiring in-school teachers to take a COVID-19 vaccine, once one has been approved and is readily available.

A mandatory vaccine for kids would be a long way away — we'd need to have one before we could even consider mandating it — but would likely be controversial, as so many vaccines have become.

  • "We don’t know if it's safe, or how kids will respond to it, so I can’t say next year that they definitely should get it," said Rhea Boyd, a pediatrician and public health advocate. "I don’t think we would require it in a year from now, and maybe not in five years from now.”

Regulators and vaccine developers will face a series of difficult decisions, once it comes time to start testing a vaccine in children — likely the first big controversy in this phase of the vaccine race.

  • Move too fast, and parents will question whether the product is safe. Move too slow and the virus will be with us longer.
  • "I think they’ll try to come up with a compromise that gives them some safety information in the minimal amount of time possible," says The Mayo Clinic's Rick Kennedy, who studies the development of immune responses after vaccination.

The bottom line: We know much less about a child vaccine than we do about an adult one, but do know that the ethical issues could prove even thornier.

Go deeper

Oct 30, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus surge threatens to shut classrooms down again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The nationwide surge in coronavirus cases is forcing many school districts to pull back from in-person instruction.

Why it matters: Remote learning is a burden on parents, teachers and students. But the wave of new infections, and its strain on some hospitals' capacity, makes all forms of reopening harder to justify.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: The good and bad news about antibody therapies — Fauci: Hotspots have materialized across "the entire country."
  2. World: Belgium imposes lockdown, citing "health emergency" due to influx of cases.
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Education: Surge threatens to shut classrooms down again.
  5. Technology: The pandemic isn't slowing tech.
  6. Travel: CDC replaces COVID-19 cruise ban with less restrictive "conditional sailing order."
  7. Sports: High school football's pandemic struggles.
  8. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.
Oct 29, 2020 - Health

U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record

Expand chart
Data: COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The United States reported 88,452 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The country confirmed 1,049 additional deaths due to the virus, and there are over 46,000 people currently being hospitalized, suggesting the U.S. is experiencing a third wave heading into the winter months.

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