Virginia health officials said Friday that the Food Drug and Administration could authorize the emergency use of Pfizer's vaccine for children as young as 12 sometime in mid-to-late May. Moderna could follow 2 to 3 weeks afterward.
Dr. Danny Avula, the state's vaccine coordinator, said the widened eligibility would be a pivotal shift toward reaching herd immunity before students return to school in the fall.
In preparation, the Virginia Department of Health is working to approve pediatrician offices as vaccination sites to ease the transition and meet with superintendents across the state to talk through the options.
With a three-week window ahead before schools go out for the summer, "there may be a real opportunity to do on-site school-based vaccination for that population," Avula said Friday.
Ensuring convenience is a factor that might help with curbing what health departments are seeing in younger, healthy adults: a lack of motivation to get a dose.
Though more infections and hospitalizations are being seen among these age groups due to older residents being vaccinated and high school contact sports or gathering at bars increasing rates of transmission.
Mobility data compiled by Carnegie Mellon University researchers showed bar visits across the state were up nearly 19% in the past week.
In February, the University of Virginia had 278 cases linked to outbreaks that have since closed, according to VDH data.
On Friday, four universities had outbreaks in progress with at least 111 infections and 8, including Virginia State University, VCU and University of Richmond, are pending closure.
"We know that kids not having access to school has had really significant impacts on their lives," Avula said. "I think there are ways that we've got to do a better job of helping the public understand 'Given where we are with vaccinations, what are the risks now and what are we giving up to start to take steps back toward normalcy?'"
The 2 to 11 age group is not anticipated to have a vaccine available for them until 2022. Anyone under 18 requires parental consent to get a dose.