April 11, 2021

Teens are starting to get vaccinated. That’s a big deal for schools

Tumisu from Pixabay

High school juniors and seniors are starting to be vaccinated against COVID-19—a watershed moment in the pandemic for schools. More than 30 states have already opened vaccine eligibility to those 16 and up, and most others plan to do so in the coming days or weeks. In many states, teenagers and young adults now seem to be driving COVID-19 surges.

The only vaccine currently authorized for use in the United States that’s approved for ages 16 and up is made by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German company BioNTech. The other authorized vaccines, made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are approved for ages 18 and up.

But even just having the oldest students vaccinated this spring will likely help schools’ efforts to resume five days a week of in-person learning. Evidence suggests that teenagers are more likely to spread the coronavirus than young children, and quarantine requirements mean that every time there’s a case, anyone who was exposed has to stay home for up to two weeks, disrupting school operations. As a result, high schools are most likely to stay remote-only or only be open a couple days a week.

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