PSU Vanguard Shield Icon

COVID-19 vaccines extending to children

Now available to all persons over 5 years old—a look to the future

When the COVID-19 pandemic started—and quarantine was originally announced in 2020 as a two-week shutdown—people patiently waited for the world to reopen. As time went on and that reality changed, the race for a vaccine started. 


Across the international community, there are seven major vaccines currently leading the fight against COVID-19: Pfizer & BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Vaxzevria/AstraZeneca and Gamelya. However, those currently available in the United States just include Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson; Pfizer and Moderna being a two-part delivery system. 


In the case of Moderna, a recipient has their initial dose, then their second dose roughly 28 days later. This can vary depending on scheduling availability, but is more efficient now as more doses are available. For Pfizer, there is an initial dose, and the second one is roughly 21 days later—again based on scheduling and availability. 


Johnson & Johnson was the first COVID-19 vaccination in the U.S. market that was available as a single shot, versus in a series. The roll out of vaccines began with those who were older and highest risk, or those who worked directly within high-risk settings or were essential workers. From there, vaccine availability phased out to those who had underlying health risks, and then to the general public by age range  (65, 45, 18+). 


One of the biggest obstacles was vaccines being used within the limited time period they were “defrosted” for. Not doing so meant the vaccine would be tossed out. However, this allowed some people to get access to vaccines before it was technically their allotted time to prevent the vaccine from going to waste. 


Since last year, people all over the United States have been able to get their vaccinations. Currently in Multnomah county, 79.9% of the population is vaccinated with first doses, but with a 4.2% positive test rate, the risk level is still considered high. 


As the push to get more people vaccinated and help fight against the spread continues, chains like Safeway are currently offering 10% off grocery trips for those getting their vaccine or boosters—as well as for flu shots. Boosters are the third round of vaccination, if the recipient had Moderna or Pfizer—or a second round for Johnson & Johnson. 


When it comes to a primary mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series (Moderna, Pfizer), the booster should be administered at least 6 months after completing the primary series, if over the age of 65 or between the age of 50-64 with underlying medical conditions. For those 18-49 years old with underlying medical conditions—or 18 and older and work or live in high-risk settings—the booster is also received six months from the primary series. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, those over 18 years old can get a  booster two months after receiving the primary dose.


When it comes to Portland locals, many people are used to the vaccination cards at this point, and either carry a photo of it or a physical copy for entry to businesses. Places such as the Expo Center and restaurants like Proud Mary require proof of vaccination, while other places may offer patio seating for guests that cannot or do not want to provide a vaccination card. 


Jacqueline, a restaurant in Southeast Portland, allows guests the option to show their vaccination card to sit inside, or they can opt out and sit out on the patio. Additionally, the restaurant also provides a link to get vaccinated on their website.  


As of Nov. 5, 2021 in the state of Oregon, masks are still mandatory in all indoor public spaces and outdoor settings where physical distancing is not possible—regardless of vaccination status. A state press release reconfirmed that everyone still needs to continue wearing a mask in areas like airports, public transports, healthcare environments, shelters, detention facilities, K-12 schools and childcare operations. 


In September, a 20-page analysis discussed vaccinations for children aged 12+ and a possible mandate of vaccines in Portland Public Schools. and equity issues, which can be found here, but ultimately only asked for voluntary submissions. Those 5 years of age and older are now eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine. However, as younger and younger children become eligible, what happens to mandatory vaccination status for those in childcare centers or spaces on campus like Little Vikings?


While COVID-19 vaccines other than Pfizer’s are not currently approved for all over people the age of 5, it is a matter of time before updates will be put into place for other vaccines. There is a long-standing history of court cases that have ruled in favor of mandatory vaccination rules such as Jacobson v. Massachusetts, Zucht v. King and Prince v. Massachusetts. 


Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, there has been discussion and a push for choice regarding vaccination status, but mixed messages and false information make it hard to navigate health obstacles and has left unvaccinated people even more in the dark than any time previous. 


There is also a long standing history of medical racism, a stigma that cannot be forgotten when discussing vaccination apprehension. A study published in the Journal of the National Medical Association states that racism is partially responsible for Black people in the United States having “the worst health care, the worst health status, and the worst health outcome of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S.” as a result of the legacy of slavery. This can be seen directly in racial disparities among vaccination rates in Portland and what Portland Public Schools discussed in their equity paper regarding the vaccination mandate discussion. While getting folks vaccinated quickly and safely is important, there is a discussion to be had on how to do so in an equitable way that speaks to more than just a one-size-fits-all method.


Like with any other vaccine, there are risks, including myocarditis or anaphylaxis in extremely rare cases. However, a child—or adult—cannot get COVID-19 from any vaccine they take. Children 12 and over have been taking the same dosage of the vaccine as adults, but for those ages 5 to 11 years old, they will take a specially formulated vaccine with the same active ingredients, a smaller needle, at roughly one-third of the adult dosage—which will require a second dose three weeks after the first dose.


At this time, resuming normality next year may not be likely. Mask mandates seem to be here to stay, and vaccinations on campus are a priority as they become available for younger and younger age groups. Children in Portland Public Schools might potentially see recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines for the 2022-23 school year, and the Oregon Health Authority may start keeping track of vaccinations on their own entirely. 


If you are interested in getting vaccinated or looking for more information on vaccines, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for general information, and the Oregon Health Authority website has more information in multiple language options.