The Biden administration on Thursday announced efforts to boost Covid vaccinations in children ages 12 and up as well as young adults they return to school this fall.
The plan comes ahead of more than 50 million students returning to K-12 school and 20 million returning to college within the next six weeks. It also comes amid a surge in cases of the highly transmissible delta Covid variant, particularly in unvaccinated communities in the U.S.
As of last week, only 30% of 12 to 17-year-olds were fully vaccinated, leaving top U.S. doctors worried that the delta variant could spread in classrooms nationwide when thousands of schools reopen.
President Joe Biden’s plan builds on a broader “Return to School Roadmap,” released earlier this week, that aims to help students, schools and educators safely return to in-person learning amid these concerns about the delta variant.
“For young people, getting vaccinated right away is the best way back to the things they love – like playing sports, completing their studies, and spending time with friends and loved ones,” the White House said in a statement.
More than a dozen sports and medicine organizations, including the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and American Academy of Pediatrics, issued a statement urging all medical providers to ask about Covid vaccination status during sports physicals, and inform student athletes about where they can access vaccinations, according to the plan.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, will also issue revised forms for doctors, parents and students that includes language on Covid vaccinations. The organization estimates that about 60% to 70% of children participate in organized sports across the U.S., making fall physical exams a prime opportunity to encourage vaccinations in the youth.
“Vaccination prevents widespread disease, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19 and will help keep students in the classroom, athletes in the game, and athletic teams on the field, while protecting our communities,” AAP said in the joint statement with eleven other organizations.
Under the plan, the National Parent Teacher Association, or PTA, will also call on 22,000 local organizations to host community conversations with parents about getting their children vaccinated.
The PTA will partner with AAP to get local pediatricians to attend those conversations, according to the plan.
The Biden administration will also provide schools and colleges with resources to hold pop-up vaccine clinics on campuses. Last week, President Joe Biden directed school districts across the U.S. to hold at least one pop-up clinic in the coming weeks, in collaboration with pharmacies in the federal pharmacy program.
From Aug. 7 to 15, the administration will also hold a campaign to push for youth vaccinations, the plan added. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona will travel to Topeka, Kansas, to visit a back-to-school vaccine clinic.
Emhoff and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci will also host a virtual discussion with youth leaders on vaccine access for the youth, according to the plan.
On Monday, the U.S. reached Biden’s goal set in May to have 70% of U.S. adults with at least one shot of the vaccine, about one month behind the original July goal.
Overall, the U.S. is reporting an average of about 677,000 daily vaccinations over the past week as of Aug. 4, up 11% from one week ago.
While Covid vaccinations are still limited for children under the age of 12, the FDA in May permitted the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15.
Moderna’s vaccine is expected to be authorized for kids as young as 12 as well. Moderna also plans to expand the size of its clinical trial testing for its vaccine to kids ages 5 to 11.