UCSF prof says kids' COVID vaccines a path toward unmasking that minimizes learning loss

It appears we're getting closer to an answer of when children under the age of 12 can finally get the COVID-19 vaccination. Even though it's not approved just yet, one school district is planning for that eventuality.

"There are a couple of really important reasons to get our five to eleven-year-olds vaccinated," said Jeanne Noble with UCSF.

Noble went on to say that it’s needed to prevent another shutdown that leads to virtual learning and it would minimize learning loss.

The associate professor of emergency medicine also said less than 10 children hospitalized in the age group have been hospitalized in the UCSF system since the start of the pandemic, likely because of high immunization rates.

The other benefit of getting children in that age group immunized: it provides a path to unmasking.

"We know that masks impede language development on our youngest kids," Noble said. "It interferes with their ability to read each other’s emotions, which is more important for younger kids and finally we’re seeing what we believe is a decreased immunity to other respiratory viruses."

In anticipation of Food and Drug Administration approval next month, the Marin County Office of Education has already set tentative dates of October 30 for a first dose and a second on November 27, for children between 5 and 11 years old.

"What we know and what the science tells us that as soon as we can get as many people as possible, regardless of their age level, full vaccinated that that’s going to make such a difference in terms of how we operate and what mitigation strategies will be necessary," said Mary Jane Burke, superintendent of Marin County's Office of Education.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says vaccine data for kids between ages 5 and 11 could be potentially ready to be submitted to the FDA by the end of September.

When asked whether he’d consider statewide vaccine mandates for kids under 12, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday, "There’s certainly conversations, obviously, but there’s nothing on the table. I want to make that clear, crystal clear," Newsom said.    

As for whether local districts will start setting their tentative dates, a spokesperson for the Alameda County Office of Education told KTVU that it has connected with the county's health department Wednesday about the October timeline and that they will begin to plan accordingly.

Education offices in Contra Costa and San Francisco said that planning has not yet taken place to set tentative dates for vaccinations before FDA approval.