In recent weeks, COVID-19 vaccines have been made available to food service workers, childcare workers, and people over 65. In the United States, teenagers should not be allowed to be vaccinated before higher risk Americans, even if they do fit either of the first two criteria.
To begin, teens are much less vulnerable to COVID-19 than older adults and senior citizens. As of mid-February 2021, just 0.17 percent of COVID-19 deaths occured in US citizens aged 24 and under. On the other hand, more than 81 percent of deaths occured in people 65 and older, according to Statista. This reveals how vulnerable senior citizens are – they need the vaccine first, and they need it as soon as possible.
In terms of childcare and food service, as well as other essential work, we cannot forget that the other 18.8 percent of COVID-19 deaths occur between ages 25 to 65. While less at risk than seniors, this age group is still significantly more vulnerable than teens are. They should still take priority over teenagers, especially as an overwhelming majority to young adults and teens.
Of course, teens that are eligible will want a vaccine, as they should. However, from a moral and logistical standpoint, they really don’t need it, at least nowhere near as much as others. The exception would be for immunocompromised teens, who are at much higher risk than their less vulnerable counterparts, and deserve to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
What about school? Although many people want to return to school as soon as possible, it makes much more sense from a safety standpoint to stay online for now. Especially with a school as large as Berkeley High School (BHS), containing the virus will be incredibly difficult, barring very limited attendance at a given time. While vaccines would make a much more normal school experience possible again, we have the ability to do school online, and therefore should get vaccines to people that need them first. We don’t need to go back to in-person school urgently, so we don’t really need vaccines yet. Senior citizens and immunocompromised people, on the other hand, absolutely do.
While it is important that teens and younger children — once a vaccine has been approved for them — are eventually vaccinated, it is clear that younger people are less vulnerable to COVID-19. We need to administer vaccinations to people that need them the most, first senior citizens, then everyone else, working down by age and necessity. Teens need to understand that they should wait to be vaccinated until more vulnerable people are. The danger teens face is nothing compared to older generations, and we need to keep this in mind throughout the coming months.