That already means thousands of young people disproportionately endangered With chronic illness and many people lacking regular access to health care, Biden’s vaccination could be the last option for a vaccine that is vital to getting children back to school and ending the pandemic.
The dilemma poses a major test of administration for Children and Families, a little-known part of the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for keeping unaccompanied minors safe at the border and overseeing childcare, foster care and family services programs . The Biden administration has already diverted more than $ 2 billion from health programs to detain a record influx of migrant children in hopes of avoiding the kind of control over children in their care that weighs on the Trump administration.
It is important that these children and their guardians have easy access to information about the vaccines, said JooYeun Chang, the acting secretary of the administration for children and families, who was tapped by Biden as the agency’s head in February. “We train their parents and caregivers – whoever has legal authority to make this decision for them – so that we don’t leave a child or family behind once these vaccines are available.”
But that’s easier said than done. The pandemic disrupted normal care practices such as visits from local government officials while unaccompanied children increased at the border this year, despite government officials taking steps to quickly connect children with guardians in the United States.
It’s getting harder and harder to check a child’s well-being and make sure they’re getting the care they need, let alone a Covid-19 vaccination, said Susan Punnett, founder of the Washington D.C. Family and Youth Initiative.
Local public health workers “had to focus on things like court hearings and social workers visiting the children” when both practices went virtual, Punnett said. While it was a necessity during the pandemic, the move had an impact – many vulnerable children only saw officials through a computer camera without the assurance they were alone to discuss concerns, Punnett said.
Typically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends approved vaccinations for specific age groups. This requires that insurers cover these recordings and make them part of routine health services for minors. A CDC spokesman said that its panel of experts is not prohibited from recommending unlicensed shots for use and that currently approved Covid-19 vaccines are on its panel Time schedule, a series of shots recommended by the federal government. Although the CDC has promoted vaccination against coronavirus, the way the shots are fired as part of an emergency permit is in uncharted territory and is subject to a patchwork of government responses and special consents and access considerations.
Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for children 12 years and older, and teens living with their parents or other guardians are already getting the shot and opening the door for on-site training, summer camps, sports, and other activities. The company filed for full approval this month in anyone aged 16 and over – a higher legal requirement than the emergency approval that would allow it to commercialize the vaccine.
Pfizer and other vaccine developers are now studying vaccinations in young children and infants, but results are not expected until fall at the earliest.
Vaccine consent laws vary by state. Most state welfare agencies let current guardians make decisions about routine care, such as: B. Federal government approved and recommended vaccines. In some areas, such as Washington DC, children over the age of 11 can make vaccination decisions for themselves. But the vast majority of states do require parental consent.
An HHS spokesman said some eligible unaccompanied children have received Covid shots and that the department is working with states to identify options for wider distribution of vaccines under CDC guidelines.
However, the ACF’s children’s office is not responsible for vaccinating foster children, said an agency spokesman. “Decisions and policies regarding vaccines for these children are under the jurisdiction of the states.”
Meanwhile, thousands of children, including many teenagers, have been driving through shelters at the border in recent months. This has resulted in federal agencies looking for more resources. Regulators approved the Pfizer vaccine for young teenagers in early May, but it is still unclear whether unaccompanied minors can get the shot in US custody. ACF declined to comment on the status of the policy.
HHS has the power to make routine health decisions and to administer a variety of vaccines to unaccompanied minors in its care. However, the status of coronavirus shots, as well as misinformation about the pandemic and vaccine development, could put federal health officials in trouble regarding disadvantaged minors.
“We need to think about the downside to make sure there is no compulsion to force people to get the vaccine because they are in federal custody,” said Ranit Mishori, senior medical advisor to Doctors for Human Rights and Georgetown University health officer . “This is unique to this vaccine. Nobody is pushing you to get the hepatitis A vaccine, for example.”
Getting legal approval for coronavirus vaccinations might only be half the battle as health officials turn to extensive vaccination efforts among young people.
Foster children and those aging out of the system tend to distrust government agencies and other agencies, said Punnett, who oversees a program that helps teenagers and young adults who have left the foster family. She and other health experts say many young people who were in foster care also worked in service industries who saw layoffs during the pandemic and struggled with steady incomes and seeking protection.
“We know that adolescents aging out of the care system are already vulnerable to so many things, such as victims of criminal behavior, homelessness, unemployment and domestic violence. All of the stressors Covid-19 brought into the environment made it all the more vulnerable because the community was struggling, “said ACF’s Chang, who oversaw children’s aid programs in Michigan before joining Biden’s administration.
A relief package in late December provided the ACF $ 344 million to help former foster youths and families and children in the welfare systems with some of these pandemic losses and challenges. However, more may be needed to expand the reach of vaccines and build confidence as the federal and state governments begin the next chapter in vaccinations.
“There are so many problems facing young people who have been in foster care or have left the foster family for the past year and a half – adding to the stressors and complications any young person would face outside of a pandemic,” Punnett said.
From care to border guards, focused dialogue helping teenagers, children and their guardians understand coronavirus vaccines will be vital – and should begin now, before widespread access to children is possible, Mishori said. “Consent goes hand in hand with a person whose questions and concerns are being answered.”