Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have looked to Dr. Anthony Fauci for guidance when making pandemic-related risk assessments for their families.
As the nation's leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci has been a trusted source of scientific information surrounding our everyday decisions, like masking, sending kids back to school and the safety of vaccinations during pregnancy.
We recently interviewed Dr. Fauci on Instagram Live to discuss the biggest issues affecting parents and children around the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to President Biden. We discussed the latest timeline on when vaccines for kids under 12 will be available, how to send kids back to school safely amidst the growing rate of pediatric hospitalizations, and President Biden's new vaccine mandates.
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DR. FAUCI INTERVIEW
*The interview below has been condensed for clarity.
We asked Dr. Fauci what many parents desperately want to know: When will vaccines be available for kids under 12?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: "Very likely this fall, probably mid-fall. The studies that lead up to the authorization will likely get data by the end of September, [or] the beginning of October. At which point, [Pfizer] will submit data to the FDA to get regulatory approval. That will usually take a couple of weeks for them to carefully go over the data, so that would mean sometime in October we'll get Pfizer approval. Moderna is usually about two to three weeks behind."
Dr. Fauci also shared guidance for parents who may be reluctant to vaccinate their young children—and how their risk of disease, while technically lower than that of an adult, is still significant.
"Even though, statistically, children who get infected have a less likelihood of a severe outcome… that doesn't mean that children cannot get significantly and seriously ill from getting infected."
"We need to get rid of the false impression that it's OK for kids to get infected. It isn't. The likelihood of children getting into trouble is less than an adult. But that's a false comparison. Because already, more children have died from COVID-19 than kids do every year from influenza. And we vaccinate children against influenza."
Even though numerous maternal and fetal health medical experts have strongly urged pregnant women to get the vaccine, the percentage of pregnant women who are vaccinated remains very low—around 23% as of August 2021. Dr. Fauci shared that the latest research says that getting infected with COVID during pregnancy is extremely dangerous, for both the health of the expectant mother and the fetus.
"We have ample data now, for women who get infected [with COVID-19] during pregnancy, it can lead to severe outcomes on the part of the woman's health, as well as for the safety of the pregnancy itself. That's the reason why, it's very clear now, that pregnant women do [need to] get vaccinated."
Right now, parents are faced with sending their children back to school at a time when the Delta variant has resulted in a rise of pediatric hospitalizations. Many parents are weighing their concerns about their childrens' social-emotional health with their risk of contracting the virus. Dr. Fauci assured us that the Biden Administration wants to do the best they can to get kids physically back in the classroom, but they want to do it safely.
"[It's important to] surround children in a school setting with people who are vaccinated—faculty and staff. You also want to make sure that everybody wears a mask. Especially now, when we have such high levels of viral dynamics in the community."
For kids under 2, who aren't able to wear masks, we asked Dr. Fauci how can parents help mitigate their children's risk of contracting COVID.
"Shield them! You've got to really provide a protective cocoon around them. Keep them away from people that are not vaccinated. And if [parents] are in an indoor setting, make sure they wear masks, so they don't get infected and go home and inadvertently infect their own children."
Hear more of Dr. Fauci's recommendations for breastfeeding parents and how he believes President Biden's vaccine mandates will help us get back on track to reducing case numbers in the full interview.