On 7 November, the US began the next phase in combating the Covid-19 pandemic by making vaccines available to children aged five to 11 years. Vaccination in this group will likely help mitigate transmission within the general public at an essential time as colder weather sets in in the US and people are more likely to gather indoors. As a result, a high vaccination rate in this age group may help reduce Covid-19 related deaths in the US in the coming months.
The US has been one of the countries most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, as confirmed deaths continue to increase throughout the country and have surpassed 764,000, according to GlobalData. Throughout the pandemic, the pattern of daily Covid-19 deaths has closely followed that of daily confirmed cases. Because of this, while the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expect Covid-19 deaths to decline in the US through mid-November, this projection does not guarantee that deaths will continue to decline throughout the holiday period, particularly as the transmission rate is likely to increase again. Apart from the wave of Delta variant cases earlier this year, transmission has tended to peak during colder months, and in the coming months, individuals are more likely to travel from areas with different transmission and vaccination rates while also gathering indoors.
At present, the best way to mitigate the risk of transmission and subsequent death is through vaccination. The US remains short of achieving herd immunity, however, with only 57.2% of the population fully vaccinated, according to GlobalData. Given that the population of US children aged five to 11 years is roughly 14.5 million individuals, vaccinating only two-thirds of this population would push the overall US vaccination rate to more than 60% and close a significant gap to achieving herd immunity. This number is achievable as it is slightly lower than the current vaccination rate of individuals aged older than 12 years.
In addition, on top of increasing the country’s vaccination rate, vaccinating children in this age group may have a more profound impact in reducing transmission. School children have been a critical driver of community transmission in recent months as they come in close contact with others through school before interacting with adults at home. While the vaccine has previously been approved for children aged 12 to 17 years, almost half of school-age children could not be vaccinated until now. As a result, vaccinating children aged five to 11 years presents a pivotal opportunity to reduce Covid-19 transmission and, in doing so, will likely also reduce the number of daily deaths.