WASHINGTON: Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, said on Sunday he supports COVID-19 vaccine mandates for children attending schools as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to fuel a surge in cases in the nation.
"I believe that mandating vaccines for children to appear in school is a good idea," Fauci told CNN’s "State of the Union" program. "We've done this for decades and decades, requiring polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis" vaccinations.
Currently, children under 12 are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. But Fauci, in a separate interview on ABC's "This Week" program, said there should be enough data by early October for the US Food and Drug Administration to consider whether the shot is safe for children under that age.
"I think there's a reasonable chance" that the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines could get FDA clearance for kids under 12 before the upcoming holiday season, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the White House, said last Tuesday.
As schools re-open for the fall, the rise in coronavirus cases is already causing significant disruptions.
Dozens of schools nationwide have had to delay the start of the school year or shut down since opening in August, according to data from tracking website Burbio. Its data shows the impact on schools so far has been heaviest in the South, the epicentre of the current surge in cases and where vaccination rates among those already eligible are generally the lowest in the country.
The re-opening of schools is also contributing to a supply shortage of COVID-19 tests in the United States as schools revive surveillance programs that will require tens of millions of tests, according to industry executives and state health officials, Reuters reported last week.