May 17, 2021 -- As parents and public health officials consider back-to-school plans for the fall, they should encourage — but not require — COVID-19 vaccination for kids, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday.

“Whenever you’re talking about requiring something, that’s always a charged issue. So I’m not so sure we should be requiring children at all,” Fauci said on “CBS This Morning.”

“We should be encouraging them,” he added.

The FDA and CDC approved the Pfizer vaccine for ages 12-15 this week, and pharmacies across the country began offering the shot to adolescents on Thursday. In clinical trial data for the age group, Pfizer said the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19.

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 30% of parents with kids between ages 12-15 said they plan to vaccinate their kids immediately. Another 26% said they would wait, 18% said they would only do it if required for school, and 23% said they would “definitely not” get their children vaccinated.

On Thursday, Fauci urged parents to get their kids vaccinated but said requiring it for school is “debatable.”

“You’ve got to be careful when you make the requirement of something,” he said. “That usually gets you into a lot of pushback — understandable pushback.”

Children and teens typically contract mild COVID-19, but a small number get into “serious trouble,” Fauci said. Several hospitals across the country have opened pediatric long-haul COVID units for kids who experience symptoms for weeks or months. Some children have also developed a rare inflammatory syndrome or died from COVID-19. Fauci said it was “very important” for kids to get vaccinated when they can.

“The other aspect of it that [people] need to understand is that when children get infected — even though they may not, in fact, get serious illness — they could inadvertently and innocently pass the infection on to someone else, perhaps another member of the family who is vulnerable,” Fauci added.

Show Sources

CBS News: “Fauci says ‘we should be encouraging’ kids to get vaccinated, but requiring it is ‘debatable.’”

Kaiser Family Foundation: “KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor – April 2021.”

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