This post was originally published on New York Amsterdam News

Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington have collaborated once again to discuss the effects of COVID-19 on kids and what role pediatric vaccines play in the pandemic. Clinical, scientific, regulatory and private sector leaders convened to discuss the effects of COVID-19 on youth and the role pediatric vaccines may play in the COVID-19 response.

“COVID-19 and Kids: Impacts, Uncertainties and the Role of Vaccines,” the second of several symposiums on children and COVID-19, directed itself towards those in the 5- to 12-year-old range, discussing what kind of pharmaceutical and social strategies are needed to support kids fighting COVID.

The symposium focused on three areas: COVID-19’s overall effect on kids in the 5- to 12-year-old age range and their families, the current state of youth vaccine development, and the ethical aspects of youth immunization and global vaccine scarcity.

Dr. David Kessler, MD, chief scientific officer for the COVID-19 Response, US Dept. of Health and Human Services; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and many others spoke.

“So much of what we’re doing right now is to promote vaccination and to get us to a light in the tunnel, I hope,” said Walensky during the conference. “Getting a shot in the United States is easier than ever.”

Walensky noted that while adults tend to get infected with COVID-19, that kids can get infected with the virus that causes it, but it’s a mixed bag as to if they’ll get a full-blown infection.

“Everyone over 12 and up should be vaccinated. It protects children, it protects families, and it protects the community,” said Walensky.

Dr. Robert W. Frenck Jr., MD, professor of pediatrics, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said that vaccinating children is more important than ever.

“The direct effect, as of last week, there have been 335 children diagnosed that we know of in the United States,” he said. “Over 18,500 have been hospitalized and 4,000 of those infected developed Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome [MIS-C].”

According to the CDC, MIS-C is “a rare but serious condition associated with COVID-19 in which different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.”

Sixty percent of MIS-C cases were Black and Brown children.

“[COVID-19] takes a toll on children’s mental, social and economic health,” said Frenck. “The overall learning experience [has] been devastated by COVID and it affects Black and Hispanic kids the most.”

The talk has directed itself to how vaccinations can have impact in different parts of the country. The Illinois state government is still debating whether or not it will require vaccinations for its schools, and there is a bill in Ohio that aims to block vaccine mandates for schools. With the amount of time it takes to be fully vaccinated (five weeks) doctors say it’s imperative that children get vaccinated now.

Pfizer’s vaccine is the only one available for students 12 to 17 years old.

Places such as Atlanta and Fort Myers, Fla. start school in early August.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggested setting up vaccine clinics at school, collaborating on vaccine-related activities in the community, and arming school staff members with the knowledge to answer any question a student may have about the virus.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is banking on vaccinations and infections continually decreasing by the time the school year rolls around, and has mandated that all kids attend school in the buildings with no remote learning option.

In late June, on the last day of school, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter praised students, faculty and staff for making it through the 2020-’21 school year during the height of the pandemic. They also shared optimism about the upcoming fall.

“On this last day of school, I want to extend my deepest appreciation to the amazing students, families, educators, principals and staff who went above and beyond to support one another and end this school year on a high note,” said Porter. “We reopened our doors when no other major district in the nation did, and your tremendous resiliency and hard work makes me so proud to be your chancellor.”

“Students have gone through a year unlike any other, and they’ve done it with grit, courage, and a passion for learning that will stay with them forever,” stated Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I’m enormously proud of all they’ve accomplished this year, and I’m grateful to every faculty member who joined them on this journey. I wish every student a fun and fulfilling summer, and I look forward to seeing full classrooms of eager learners next fall.”