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Schools are reopening. COVID-19 is still here. What does that mean for kids?

As the delta variant of the coronavirus sends case counts surging, millions of U.S. children are heading back to school in person, many for the first time in more than a year. It’s a confluence of events that has some parents, educators and health officials worried.

The vast majority of children are unvaccinated, making them one of the populations most vulnerable to the virus. Crowd them together, mix in a more transmissible variant, and it could create a perfect recipe for infection and spreading COVID-19 if extra precautions like wearing masks aren’t taken.

Vaccines offer the best protection, but many children can’t yet get COVID-19 shots. While vaccines for children younger than 12 are in testing, it could still be months before they’re available for most children in elementary and middle school (SN: 5/10/21). Their younger siblings will probably have to wait longer.

Even once vaccines are in hand for the youngest, it’s unclear how many will get the shots. Most eligible 12-year-olds and teens have yet to get vaccinated. Some people have even questioned whether children need to be vaccinated now, given that their risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 is less than that of adults.

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