NATIONWIDE — COVID-19 vaccine advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will meet this week to consider whether expanding access to vaccines for children will be safe and effective in preventing the virus. 

What You Need To Know

  • FDA to consider making children eligible for COVID vaccinations

  • Pfizer's vaccine already is approved for people 12 years old and up

  • Many parents want their children vaccinated before they go back to school

  • If rules do change, mental-health experts advise parents to prepare their children

One brand of the vaccines are already available to youths as young as 12 years old.

The decision is one many parents will be following closely. School may be out for the summer, but many parents say they are hopeful their children will be vaccinated before the start of the next school year. 

Currently, Pfizer is the only vaccine granted emergency-use authorization for children as young as 12. Both Pfizer and Moderna are actively studying the use of the vaccine in younger children to ensure it will be both safe and effective.

Expanding access will take time, but young children, even toddlers, could be eligible by the end of the year, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden.

“We hope that as we approach the end of this calendar year, we'll have enough information to vaccinate children of any age," Fauci said. "So I'm cautiously optimistic we might be there by the end of the year." 

And as vaccine rates rise in older children and adults across the United States, allowing COVID-restrictions to ease, children may need some help adjusting to those guidelines. Childcare experts say it’s important to be clear and direct.

“If a policy or practice has changed at school or a camp or somewhere in the community that they're used to going over the past year, help them to understand what it is going to be like when they go next time," said Jody Baumstein, a licensed therapist with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. 

Baumstein said whether it’s about the vaccine or mask mandates relaxing, it’s important that parents talk to children in a simple, straightforward way to answer any questions they may have as well as take the time to correct any misinformation they may have heard elsewhere to help ease their concerns.

When the FDA advisers meet Thursday, they also will discuss parameters for what information and next steps must be taken before any changes on COVID vaccinations for children 11 and under can be approved.

The FDA advisors are not set to discuss any specific products though at Thursday’s meeting.