Approximately one in four Americans may be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but so far that only accounts for adults. As of right now, there is no COVID vaccine available for children under the age of 16, and people are wondering if there needs to be one. After all, the number of pediatric cases of COVID are very low compared to adult cases, and most of those cases appear to be very mild. Then again, those “mild” cases still add up to over 3.5 million pediatric COVID cases, more than 200 of which have been fatal. On top of that, doctors are concerned about a COVID-related condition that affects children called multisystem inflammatory syndrome. There have been at least 1,659 cases of this condition reported in the United States, 26 of which have proven to be fatal.

COVID-19 clearly affects children as well as adults, but it could be some time before there is a vaccine for anyone 15 and under. A child’s immune system isn’t the same as an adult; we see different immune responses from people at different ages. Since there is much we still don’t know about COVID and how it can affect children, additional research needs to be completed before we can have a reliable pediatric vaccine. The best-case predictions state that a full pediatric vaccine will be available in late 2021, and there have been clinical trials from Pfizer and Moderna for vaccines for patients as young as 6 months old. That’s not a guarantee that we will see a COVID vaccine for children before the end of the year; more conservative estimates have said that a pediatric COVID vaccine rollout won’t happen until 2022.

So, what does this all mean for us as a country? Mostly that we need to remain cautious against COVID-19. There are still millions of adults who haven’t been fully vaccinated, and some reports have stated that it might be nearly impossible to achieve herd immunity. Things have improved thanks to the current vaccine rollout, but we still have a long way to go. Until people of all ages can receive a COVID vaccine, we still need to exercise caution. Remain six feet apart from others, wear a mask in public, wash your hands frequently, and stay home if you or your children are showing COVID symptoms.