Younger kids may soon qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s why that’s important.

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By Alison Steinbach, Stephanie Innes | Arizona Republic

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is accelerating nationwide, but there’s a big hole in the process: Kids and most teens are still not allowed to get the approved vaccines, though that could change soon.

Kids under 18 make up about 22% of the U.S. population and the Arizona population, meaning they need to be vaccinated if we hope to reach herd immunity, when enough of the population is immunized against COVID-19 to prevent future outbreaks. 

The three approved vaccines are being tested on teenagers or younger kids. Some early results are promising.

The bulk of trials are still in the works. Officials with the American Academy of Pediatrics say it is “potentially achievable” that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available for at least some age groups of children and adolescents before the 2021-22 school year begins.

Public health experts in Arizona do not believe the COVID-19 vaccine, like other immunizations, will be mandatory for school children, at least for the time being. But pediatricians and other medical experts say it’s important for kids to get the vaccine once it’s been safety-approved and is available.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for anyone who is 16 years of age and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved only for those ages 18 years of age and older.

All three manufacturers have expanded their vaccine studies to children ages 12 and older, said Dr. Sean Elliott, an infectious disease pediatrician at Tucson Medical Center and the immunization representative for the Arizona chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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