BOSTON — While many Massachusetts parents embraced the return to in-person school this fall, not everyone was so thrilled. Two petitions, one local and one statewide, are calling on education officials to offer virtual options until all school children become eligible for COVID vaccination.
MA Parents for Remote Learning Options had more than 700 signatures by late Monday. A local effort in Quincy, organized by a parent, gathered more than 400 signatures. Comments that accompanied the signatures indicated concern over children becoming sick and/or bringing the virus home and infecting others.
“My child is medically complex and after strictly quarantining for so long we do not feel safe sending her back to school at this moment,” wrote Courtney Feeley Karp of Boston.
“My son is too young for vaccination,” said Lisa Conley of West Roxbury. “I am concerned for his safety and also for the safety of vulnerable adults in our household. The risk of transmission with Delta is too high and it’s irresponsible for the state to require students to return to poorly ventilated school buildings knowing that the variant is so transmissible.”
“Students returning to school are likely to be infected with COVID-19 because it is crowded and they are unvaccinated,” Alice L. added.
And while most children develop only mild disease with the virus, that is not always the case, especially lately.
“Especially with the Delta variant, more children are hospitalized with COVID and pediatric ICUs are filling up,” said Dr. Kawsar Talaat, an associate professor in the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Children can have long-COVID. Children can have MIS-C or Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome after they develop COVID infection.”
Talaat, who is currently involved in research on a COVID vaccine in adults and children, expects a submission covering the 5-11 age group before the end of the month. But it’s hard to say whether a review of that application would be complete by, as some have suggested, Halloween, because drug regulators will be looking at reams of data.
“Hundreds of pages,” Talaat said. “That discuss everything from where the vaccine is manufactured, the facility it’s manufactured in, the conditions it’s manufactured under. To how it’s stored, how it’s shipped, how it’s diluted, how it’s administered.”
And, of course, there’s the crucial data from the clinical trials on how well does the vaccine work in children and does it cause any harmful side effects.
“Many, many people are involved in the review of the application,” Talaat said. “It’s not just one person or a couple of people.”
The expectation is that approval will come in two stages for the youngest Americans, first for children ages 5-11, then perhaps early next year for those under 5.
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