published: November 19, 2020 - last updated: November 20, 2020
I'll start by saying that no one should listen to me. I'm biased by having a five year old son that I'm very worried about, and I'm not an expert on this topic. A well-reasoned opposing view is welcome. But, here we go.
By giving young children and their teachers the vaccine first, we give those classrooms enough herd immunity that they can go almost entirely back to normal, without making them an infection vector to their families and the rest of society.
Why should we get those classrooms back to normal first? The crux of my argument is simple: the education of young children plays a critical role in our economy and society, and is leveraged in many other areas. Remote learning or a break in schooling for young children could have several serious secondary effects:
I strongly suspect that this plan has the highest expected value of any we could choose. It's certainly true that medical or long-term care workers have much higher base risk, but they also work in environments where strong sanitary guidelines have always been in place, and where those sanitary guidelines don't intrinsically decrease the quality of their work. More careful guidelines don't cancel out their efforts. That's not the case in the education of young children.
We have to be safe, and it's unacceptable to allow pointless deaths simply to keep the economic engine turning. That's the reason I didn't make this argument earlier, I knew it was selfish to insist that teachers risk their lives for someone else's children. But now that a vaccine is on the horizon, we have to intelligently prioritize its distribution based on where it will do the most good.
Our little kids need to get learning again, in an environment where they can play, and sing, and yell, and hug, and high-five, and do silly dances, and not feel like they're in a hospital. I'm so worried about them, and I think all of us should be.
I hope I haven't said anything hurtful or unreasonable. I'm worried about my little boy and his mother, and this is the best I can do right now.