Fauci outlines the case for offering Covid shots to young people

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., July 20, 2021.

Stefani Reynolds | Pool | Reuters

LONDON — Dr. Anthony Fauci has outlined three key reasons supporting the case for vaccinating young people against the coronavirus, citing short and long-term benefits to the entire population.

Speaking to a U.K. audience at a lecture hosted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine earlier this week, the U.S.’ top infectious disease expert discussed the significance of “long Covid,” the benefits of a move to a three-dose vaccination drive and why he believes it is important to vaccinate children.

“I do believe … that we should vaccinate the children, and there are a number of reasons,” Fauci said on Wednesday.

Firstly, he described young people as “vehicles of spread” for the virus, noting that the transmissibility of the fast-spreading delta variant continued to fuel a surge in cases as schools re-open for the fall.

Fauci said the situation is particularly alarming in the southern states of the U.S., with intensive care units in pediatric hospitals currently at maximum capacity in Florida, Texas, Georgia and Mississippi. Doctors and epidemiologists fear the surge in Covid hospitalizations could get even worse unless children get vaccinated and school districts impose mask mandates and other safety precautions.

“We are almost overrun. We have a lot of children in hospitals now,” Fauci said. “So, even though relatively speaking, compared to an adult they dot get as seriously ill, we have lost more children from SARS-CoV-2 than we ever lose for influenza — and we vaccinate children against influenza.”

A woman walks near the emergency entrance at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

Paul Hennessy | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

A third reason to support the case for vaccinating children against the coronavirus, Fauci said, was the possible effects of infection in the long term.

“We don’t know what the effects are going to be on anyone, including children. So, it may be that much to our dismay that children who get infected have long term consequences that we don’t fully appreciate right now,” Fauci said.

“For those reasons, one of transmissibility, one of the seriousness of disease and one of uncertainty about long-range consequences, I come down strongly on ultimately vaccinating our children.”

What is the U.K.’s stance?

Fauci said that while it was his opinion children should be vaccinated against Covid-19, he did not wish to cast any “dispersion” on decisions taken by U.K. authorities to date.

The U.K.’s official vaccine advisers have not recommended the shot for healthy 12 to 15-year-olds, a move that puts the country at odds with the U.S., Canada, China, Japan, Singapore, Israel, the UAE and many nations in Europe.

The U.K.’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said earlier this month that it does not recommend the vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds because it believes “the margin of benefit is considered too small” to vaccinate the entire age group.

The JCVI added that it is not within its remit to examine the broader societal impacts of vaccination on this age group, such as educational benefits, and noted that the government “may wish to seek further views on the wider societal and educational impacts.”

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