April 9, 2021 -- All schools should be open for in-person learning this fall, even if not all kids are vaccinated, Rochelle Walensky, MD, the CDC director, said Wednesday.
“We should anticipate, come September 2021, that schools should be full-fledged in person and all of our children back in the classroom,” she told ABC News.
Some children should become eligible for a vaccine by mid-May, Walensky said. Pfizer released new data last week that indicated its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children between ages 12-15, she added, and now the FDA will need to authorize the vaccine for those ages.
Moderna is also conducting studies in teens and pre-teens, and Walensky said she hopes both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be available for ages 12 and older by this summer. Johnson & Johnson will also begin pediatric clinical trials in upcoming months.
However, Walensky said she doesn’t anticipate a vaccine being authorized for children under age 12 before the end of 2021. At the same time, she said parents and teachers should expect a full return to in-person classes whether children are fully vaccinated or not.
“We can vaccinate teachers, we can test, there’s so much we can do,” she added.
Nearly 80% of Pre-K through grade 12 teachers, school staff and childcare workers received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot by the end of March, the CDC announced on Tuesday.
On March 2, President Joe Biden directed states to make teachers, school staff and childcare workers eligible for vaccination priority. Many states held school-specific vaccination events and local programs to prioritize these workers, the CDC said.
More than 2 million teachers, school staff and childcare workers were vaccinated through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program during March, according to CDC estimates. Another 5 to 6 million workers received vaccines through state programs.