As providers work to distribute vaccines, Pfizer has requested Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine to be used on 12 to 15-year-olds.
"Both my husband and I have been fully vaccinated. But we're still not getting out as if everything's OK, and part of that is because (our son) hasn't been vaccinated," said Melanie Hill, a Chapel Hill mother of a 13-year-old.
Her son Tyler has opted to remain in virtual classes through the rest of the school year.
"He is still reticent. He doesn't really want to go out right now. He hasn't been vaccinated. And he really just wants to stay in, and I think mentally it would help him if he has the vaccine," Hill explained.
Hill said her entire family has taken cautions since the beginning of the pandemic, limiting trips and contact with people outside the home.
"He does get outside and play with his friends, but they are all masked up and they stay pretty far apart," Hill noted.
She said once Tyler is able to get a vaccine, he will do so.
"We do have lots of neighbors with kids that around his age, and yes I think the majority of (them) say that they're ready for their kids to get the vaccine whenever it's available," Hill said.
As of 2016, NCDHHS reported that 23% of North Carolinians were younger than 18 years old, accounting for nearly 2.3 million people. Only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for 16 and 17-year-olds, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for people 18 and older.
"I think the best estimates from all the experts that we can see is that approximately 70-85% of the population needs to receive a vaccine to achieve what we think is herd protection or I like to actually call it more community protection against infection. So that's a pretty high bar to achieve," said Dr. Emmanuel Walter Jr., the Chief Medical Officer of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, last week.
Through Sunday, 32.4% of North Carolinians are at least partially vaccinated.
"Herd immunity really gets this notion about if you are immune, you're not only protecting yourself but you're protecting people around you because you're not transmitting disease to them," said Dr. Michael Smith, a professor of pediatrics at Duke.
He explained COVID-19 risk factors were a consideration in the state's rollout, which prioritized age as part of Group 1.
"It's really adults that seem to be the ones that transmit COVID as compared to children. Certainly, the younger you get, the less likely you are to transmit COVID," Smith said.
Until vaccines are authorized, Smith said there are other ways for children to protect themselves.
"Whether children are vaccinated are not, they can still wear a mask. And that is a huge way to prevent transmission," said Dr. Smith.
Duke is a clinical trial site for Pfizer's vaccine studies on 12-15 year old's and children younger than 12. Pfizer states their vaccine is 100% effective in children ages 12 to 15, and they hope to start providing vaccines for children in that age group by the beginning of next school year.
Pfizer seeks Emergency Use Authorization for vaccinating 12-15 year-olds