FDA Recommends COVID Vaccines for Young Kids; 3rd Pfizer Dose May Be Key
A weekly roundup of headlines about how the pandemic is shaping schools and education policy, vetted by AEI Visiting Fellow John Bailey
This is our weekly briefing on the pandemic, vetted by John Bailey. Click here to see the full archive.
This Week’s Top Story
FDA Committee Recommends COVID Vaccines for Young Kids
- The Food and Drug Administration’s committee of independent vaccine experts voted overwhelmingly (21-0) to recommend vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer for infants and toddlers.
- “Pfizer’s vaccine is administered in three doses for kids ages six months to 4-years-old. The shots are dosed at 3 micrograms, one-tenth of what adults receive.”
- “After two doses, Pfizer’s vaccine was about only 28% effective in preventing symptomatic infection in children aged 6 months through 4 years old. Pfizer has suggested the vaccine was 80% effective after a third dose, but the finding was based on only 10 cases out of a subset of the 1,678 trial participants,” The New York Times reports.
- “Moderna’s vaccine is administered in two doses for kids six months to 5-years-old. The shots are dosed at 25 micrograms, one-fourth of what adults receive.”
- “Parents will likely be able to get their kids immunized as soon as Tuesday, though appointments might be limited at first as the vaccination program ramps up, according to Dr. Ashish Jha, who oversees the White House’s response to the pandemic.”
- The best analysis and takeaways come, as they always do, from Emily Oster and Katelyn Jetelina.
- Learn more and watch the meeting.
- Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Announces Operational Plan for COVID-19 Vaccinations for Children Under 5.
The Big Three
Students Need Summer School. Some Districts Can’t Staff It: Via The Washington Post.
- “In Virginia, state officials canceled a small selective summer program for lack of staff. In Wisconsin, school system leaders notified 700 students they could not be enrolled in summer classes because there weren’t enough teachers. And in rural Oregon, Superintendent Ginger Redlinger is still hiring for programs that start in June and August.”
- “St. Louis Public Schools are paying teachers $40-an-hour this year, from roughly $25-an-hour last year. Support-staff pay jumped $10-an-hour above the usual rate.”
- “To spark student interest, summer classes in St. Louis are being framed as “summer camp,” with hands-on experiential learning for all and Friday field trips for younger kids. More than 6,000 students signed on, bigger than last year — and about 30% of the 20,000-student district.”
- “Pay increases are not without trade-offs. Pushing up hourly pay rates in one area can mean that nearby school systems struggle to hire staff, said Ronn Nozoe, chief executive of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. ‘Neighboring districts suffer,’ he said.”
Pandemic Babies Are Behind
- “Emerging evidence reveals an uptick in developmental delays and challenging behaviors in children belonging to the so-called ‘COVID generation.’ Born during or shortly before the pandemic, many of these children are talking, walking and interacting later and less frequently. They’re also more prone to certain behaviors, like outbursts, physical aggression and separation anxiety,” USA Today reports.
- “It’s unclear how much the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic fallout are to blame. But experts note many young children in recent years have had uneven access to health and child care and relatively little exposure to the outside world.”
- “It could be years before researchers can adequately measure whether the pandemic had any material, long-term effect on early childhood development. In many cases, the lagging social skills are recoverable.”
- “National data shows a dip in referrals for early intervention services at the beginning of the pandemic, as well as in visits to primary care physicians. In many cases, the children who need the services most are least likely to receive them. The disparities are likely to become worse as demand rebounds, experts say.”
Florida Hasn’t Ordered Any Pediatric COVID Shots Yet
- “Every state has placed an order with the federal government to ensure coronavirus vaccines for young children are delivered as soon as regulators authorize their use — except for one,” McClatchy reports.
- “Florida missed a Tuesday deadline to request delivery of COVID-19 pediatric vaccines for children under 5, guaranteeing a delay in access for parents across the state, according to two U.S. government sources.”
- “Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for the Florida Department of Health, confirmed the department ‘chose not to participate’ in the vaccination program because the state health department is not following federal public health recommendations.
- “Parents in Florida seeking vaccines for their children will still have two options to access the shots. Some community health centers have ordered vaccines directly through the federal government. And federal pharmacy partners will also have supply, although several chains will be prioritizing children ages 3 and up.”
U.S. Education Department
- Creates “National Parents and Families Engagement Council to help ensure recovery efforts meet students’ needs” (Read more about the new council at The 74)
Senators Strike Bipartisan Gun Safety Agreement:
- Via Politico. Four key provisions:
- Enhanced background checks for buyers under 21;
- Funding to incentivize states to pass “red flag” laws;
- Funding for mental health and school safety, which could be as much as $7 billion for community mental health clinics.
- Closing the so-called boyfriend loophole, which presently allows people to buy guns even if they were convicted of domestic violence against a partner they were dating (but not married to).
- President Joe Biden: “It does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction. With bipartisan support, there are no excuses for delay. Let’s get this done.”
- Senate Majority Leader Schumer: “We must move swiftly to advance this legislation, because if a single life can be saved, it is worth the effort.”
- Senate Minority Leader McConnell: “The principles they announced today show the value of dialogue and cooperation. I continue to hope their discussions yield a bipartisan product that makes significant headway on key issues like mental health and school safety, respects the Second Amendment, earns broad support in the Senate, and makes a difference for our country.”
City & State News
- Gov. Kim Reynolds signs bill banning COVID-19 vaccination requirements at schools, daycares.
- The Nevada Board of Regents approved the selection of Dale A.R. Erquiaga as the acting chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
- “Does tutoring + culturally relevant lessons + double math periods = math proficiency?”
- “Madison’s One City Schools plans to try something different this fall to keep its educators fresh for the coming school year.”
- “On Friday, the organization revealed a switch to a four-day work week for its teachers, assistant teachers, and student support personnel.”
- “Students will keep the same Monday-Friday routine. Teachers will rotate alternative days off from one another, so that there are always teachers in the building.”
Data Highlight Greater Impact of COVID-19 vs. Flu in Children
- A study in JAMA Network Open comparing COVID-19 versus flu in kids 5 years old and younger finds that the novel coronavirus led to twice the rate of admissions to pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) and rates of intubation one-third higher during the first 15 months of the pandemic.
- “We observed more [pediatric intensive care unit] admissions from SARS-CoV-2 between April 2020 and June 2021 than from influenza during the preceding 2 years.”
Information Campaigns and School Closures Were the Most Effective Measures
- “Among the so-called non-pharmaceutical measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, public information campaigns and school closures were the most effective. They reduced the reproduction rate, which is the average number of people infected by an infected person, by 0.35 and 0.24, respectively.”
- “Nevertheless, the high effectiveness of a measure does not automatically translate into a recommendation for political implementation if it has, as in the case of school closures, strong negative effects,” says study author Alexander Sandkamp from the Kiel Institute.”
- “Wearing masks did not produce statistically measurable success in the first wave of COVID-19, but did so in the second wave.”
Predicting the Fall and Boosters
- Via Katelyn Jetelina
- “One way to get ahead of the virus is to anticipate the dominant variant this winter, just like we do with the flu each year.”
- “It’s suggested that we adapt this process for COVID-19. And I agree. But I can’t highlight enough how incredibly challenging this is right now. For several reasons”
- “Bigger questions (beyond the FDA) include:”
- “Payment. Congress has not passed COVID-19 funding, so we don’t have money to pay for everyone’s new boosters in the U.S. Not everyone would get in line given vaccine hesitancy, but the discrepancy and the implications are important.”
- “Vaccination rate. All of this science is great. But only 48% of people in the U.S. have their original booster. Only 23% of eligible people have their second booster. Why aren’t we leveraging social science as much as bench science to increase effectiveness of vaccine rollouts?”
More Notable Research
- Quantifying the Importance and Location of SARS-CoV-2 Transmission Events in Large Metropolitan Areas: “Our results indicate that places are not dangerous on their own; instead, transmission risk is a combination of both the characteristics of the place/setting and the behavior of individuals who visit it.”
- Unexplained hepatitis is not more common in U.S. children than before the pandemic, a CDC study suggests.
- No learning loss in Sweden, primary school reading assessments show
- For students below grade level, consistent Zearn usage doubles learning gains, according to a report from Zearn.
The Christensen Institute released some really fascinating new teacher survey research:
- How are teachers blending and personalizing learning post-pandemic?
- Which instructional resources do educators rely on?
- How have pandemic shifts affected students from diverse backgrounds?
- What programs have school systems created to support their students?
- How are teachers faring in the wake of the pandemic?
Teachers Leaving Jobs During Pandemic Find ‘Fertile’ Ground in New School Models
- Via The 74: “Microschools and online programs are attracting educators who valued the flexibility they gained during remote learning.“
- “For the first time in their lives, they have options,” said Jennifer Carolan, a former teacher in the Chicago area and now a partner with Reach Capital. The investment firm supports online programs and ed tech ventures, such as Outschool, with thousands of online classes, and Paper, a tutoring platform that states and districts have adopted using federal relief funds.”
- “Traditional schools, Carolan said, haven’t kept pace with what teachers want in the workplace, particularly flexible schedules. And after a “hellish two years,” some are gravitating toward positions that personalize learning for students while offering a better work-life balance.”
- Related: Microschools Are Catching On, reports The Hustle.
How 100 Large and Urban Districts Are (and Aren’t) Engaging Stakeholders: CRPE in The 74.
- “Of the 100 districts in our database, 68 have publicly shared plans for spending their relief dollars, and 57 have created engagement strategies for soliciting community input, according to our analysis this spring. That’s an increase from 47 districts with engagement strategies in place last year at this time. Of those 57 districts, 29 designed at least two pathways for community feedback.”
Lessons for Policymakers from Frustrated Parents:
- Via Bellwether Education partners leveraging some focus group research
- “Work with parents to better understand their needs: Policymakers and education leaders must increase efforts to reach out to families to better understand their needs.”
- “Increase the number of educational options available to families: Policymakers should provide families with educational options both during and beyond the regular school day. These options, in addition to school choice, should include more flexible and supplemental learning options like after-school programs, tutoring, and summer activities.”
- “Inform families about educational options that could meet their child’s needs: Policymakers and advocates should redouble their efforts to provide families with clear, reliable information to better inform their education decision-making.”
- “Reduce barriers to access: Policymakers should work with parents to identify barriers to educational opportunities in their communities and tailor solutions to mitigate or eliminate them.”
…And on a Reflective Note
Classmates Wouldn’t Sign His Yearbook
- So older students stepped in.
- “No one helped me when I was in that situation,” said Maya, 14. “So I wanted to be there for him.”
- “She rounded up her friends, all of whom were eager to give Brody a confidence boost. The impromptu initiative spread throughout the school, and on May 25, the day after the yearbooks were distributed, a swarm of older students filed into Brody’s sixth-grade classroom, ready to sign his yearbook.”
- “Maya, for her part, promised Brody that beyond signing his yearbook, she would continue to be there for him. She gave him her phone number, and they have already met for ice cream with a few of her friends. They bonded over their shared experience with bullies, and she imparted words of wisdom: ‘Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you,’ she told Brody.”
- Paul Rudd even FaceTimed Brody.
- Related: Avery Dixon shared how he was bullied. But his sensational saxophone skills earned a golden buzzer from Terry Crews.
Weekend Reads: In case you missed them, our top five stories of the week:
- They Ran for their Lives: Panic at DC March Inflames the Trauma of Parkland
- Student Voice: Graduating After a Third COVID-Disrupted School Year
- Documentary: An Philadelphia Teacher Helps His Community Capture Hope & Promise in Art
For even more COVID policy and education news, subscribe to John Bailey’s daily briefing via Substack.
Disclosure: John Bailey is an adviser to the Walton Family Foundation, which provides financial support to The 74. Andy Rotherham co-founded Bellwether Education Partners. He sits on The 74’s board of directors.