America’s Kids Ought to Be First Precedence for Vaccinations: The Financial Argument
Why I believe children should be high on the list when getting the Covid vaccine.
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December 19, 2020 3 min read
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur’s contributors are their own.
America faces winter with a contradicting mix of fear and hope. The pandemic is out of control across the country, but the vaccines are imminent. Now it’s a matter of who gets it first. Frontline responders and the elderly are usually the first candidates mentioned. Of course, they should be taken into account.
But what about the kids? The economic argument strongly suggests they are high on the list, especially if schools close again. This is not just an argument for taking children out of the house so their parents can go back to work. The economic case for vaccinating children initially has long-term implications for their education, future earnings potential, and the fate of the American economy in the decades to come.
Related: Up to 10 vaccines could be available in 2021
A number of studies have documented the devastating lifelong economic cost of lost education – to future earners and the economy. A study published by an international team of researchers estimated that school closings in the United States last spring will reduce GDP by more than $ 14 trillion in the coming decades. The researchers found that the number is likely to be much higher, up to $ 28 trillion, as school closings continued into the fall. Most worryingly, these estimates did not take into account long-term economic losses from shutdowns through 2021. Children who lose only a few months of education are more likely to be exposed to reduced earning potential.
These numbers shouldn’t detract from the human toll of school closings. The children who lose the most to distance learning are already from low-income families. The digital divide distances these children from the technology and skills required for successful distance learning. Schools across the country are seeing a dramatic increase in dropout rates, especially among children from poor families. These children are less likely to have computers, WiFi access, and most importantly, parental guidance to monitor and support their remote learning.
America is facing a widening socioeconomic divide as the pandemic generation is of working age. Children with the privilege of internet-savvy parents, many of whom can work from home and provide immediate supervision, are the least likely to lose through distance learning. Children from working class households and poor workers will fall into the academic void of the digital divide.
When children are vaccinated first, they will no longer be a threat to teachers, teachers, their families and their communities. Schools can reopen and we can put a quick end to the national experiment of distance learning. In the meantime, parents who work in day-care centers can also go back to work. The short-term gains for the economy are obvious. American parents can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to work knowing their children are safe from infection and transmission.
Of course, this scenario assumes that parents agree to vaccinate their children. Always an idealist, I can’t help but believe that sentiment against Vaxxer will subside when parents realize the cost of denying their children an education based on weak conspiracy theories. Public health messaging must inform parents of the safety protocols that make these vaccinations safe.
American children should no longer suffer. Your short-term educational losses from distance learning will translate into long-term economic losses for themselves, their families, and the nation. Vaccinate our children first so that they can be the first to return to their rightful place in schools.