Linnette Cruz, 11th Grade
On May 12, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that they approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for everyone of ages 12 and up. After vast amounts of research and clinical trials, no safety concerns came about for children 12 through 15 years old with the vaccine. Pfizer and the CDC concluded that COVID-19 vaccines can help protect children from getting infected and consequently, seriously ill, proving 100% effective at preventing related symptoms (CDC, 2021). Nevertheless, months later, children ages 12 to 15 are the least vaccinated age group in the United States.
Before COVID-19 vaccinations became available for children and adolescents, many clinical trials were initiated to completely ensure that these vaccines were both effective and safe for the age groups since children and adults are not tolerant of the same things. As schools return to in-person education and leave distance learning in the past, many scientists are worried that there will be a rise in outbreaks and school enclosures with the lack of vaccinated children going back to school. In fact, following the start of the 2021-2022 school year, many outbreaks have happened in states such as North Carolina and Georgia.
Not only do the COVID-19 vaccines have a current controversial standing on the political, medical, and even government conspiracy side of things, they also have a lack of common ground between parents and children. One of the main causes of such few vaccinated children and adolescents is that parental consent is needed for minors to get vaccinated and to make their own health decisions overall. Many parents became quite skeptical over the vaccines and how quickly they were approved for the various age groups, as well as the mountains of misinformation being spread on social media. If a child disagrees with their parent’s decision on not getting the COVID-19 vaccine, then these children must look to the internet and medical advice in order to try and convince them otherwise.
After a year and a half of distance learning and missing out on birthdays, clubs, team sports, and simply hanging out with friends, teenagers are taking a stand against parents who do not grant them approval to get the vaccine. While some states allow minors to legally decide for themselves to get vaccinated, the overwhelming majority do not. Therefore, teenagers around the United States have taken matters into their own hands, advocating for COVID-19 vaccination and fighting vaccine misinformation. Many pro-vaccination groups have risen since the vaccine was approved for children and adolescents, including a group called Teens for Vaccines. Via their website, they post guidance on “How to Talk to Your Parents About Vaccination”.Advocates as young as 13 years of age from this group take to social media to educate those against vaccination in the hopes of changing attitudes and being a voice for those teens who cannot speak out for themselves.
So, if children have been reported to be less likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than adults, why is it important to get them vaccinated as well? For starters, in order to reach complete herd immunity against the virus, at least 75 to 80 percent of the population needs to be fully vaccinated or have a natural immunity to stop further outbreaks and variants, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci–the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In order to reach that percentage, both children and adolescents need to get vaccinated especially because people under 18 make up approximately 22 percent of the U.S. population (Sakay, 2021). Additionally, those children that do contract the virus can also transmit it to their parents and other adult people in their life who might not have a strong immune system.
Overall, young people should be given more of a say in whether the vaccine should be administered to them or not. With over-crowded classrooms despite the health guidelines coming from left and right, children and teens are fighting back for a say in COVID-related matters and their parents. These young voices are making a change for the good of the population in order to end the disease-ridden era. Teenagers have done their part in increasing the intensity of these difficult conversions, now, it is time for parents to either be part of the solution or watch as COVID-19 rates go up in children’s hospitals.
If you’re a teenager struggling to convince your parents to allow you to get your COVID-19 vaccinations, here are some resources that may help you shape your argument and stir the conversation:
- Families & Children. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/groups/families-children.html
- Children and COVID-19 Vaccination Trends. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2021 from https://www.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/children-and-covid-19-vaccination-trends/
- Sakay, Y. N. (2021, August 14). Vaccinating Kids, Masks, and More: The New U.S. School Year. Retrieved September 16, 2021 from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/kids-and-covid-19-vaccines-what-does-this-mean-for-the-new-school-year#Kids:-A-key-demographic-in-reaching-herd-immunity
- Summers, Z. (2021, August 30). More than half of Georgia COVID outbreaks are happening in K-12 schools, state health officials say. Retrieved September 16, 2021 from https://www.cbs46.com/news/more-than-half-of-georgia-covid-outbreaks-are-happening-in-k-12-schools-state-health/article_a6b2018e-0a01-11ec-bed5-5ff30262f9b4.html
- Romero, L. (2021, September 15). Teens turn to COVID-19 vaccine advocacy as most state laws prohibit minors from being vaccinated without consent. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://abcnews.go.com/US/teens-turn-covid-19-vaccine-advocacy-state-laws/story?id=80017227
- Campbell, J. D. (n.d.). When can children get the COVID-19 vaccine? Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/when-can-children-get-the-COVID-19-vaccine.aspx
- Fallert, N. (2021, September 07). The Battle Against Teens Getting COVID Vaccines Is Ramping Up. Now They’re Fighting Back. Retrieved September 16, 2021 from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/nicolefallert/covid-vaccine-teens-parental-consent
- Brian Dean Abramson Adjunct Professor of Vaccine Law. (2021, September 01). Do US teens have the right to be vaccinated against their parents’ will? It depends on where they live. Retrieved September 16, 2021 from https://theconversation.com/do-us-teens-have-the-right-to-be-vaccinated-against-their-parents-will-it-depends-on-where-they-live-166147