Impact of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination of children ages 5-11 years on COVID-19 disease burden and resilience to new variants in the United States, November 2021-March 2022: A multi-model study

Lancet Reg Health Am. 2023 Jan:17:100398. doi: 10.1016/j.lana.2022.100398. Epub 2022 Nov 22.


Background: The COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub convened nine modeling teams to project the impact of expanding SARS-CoV-2 vaccination to children aged 5-11 years on COVID-19 burden and resilience against variant strains.

Methods: Teams contributed state- and national-level weekly projections of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States from September 12, 2021 to March 12, 2022. Four scenarios covered all combinations of 1) vaccination (or not) of children aged 5-11 years (starting November 1, 2021), and 2) emergence (or not) of a variant more transmissible than the Delta variant (emerging November 15, 2021). Individual team projections were linearly pooled. The effect of childhood vaccination on overall and age-specific outcomes was estimated using meta-analyses.

Findings: Assuming that a new variant would not emerge, all-age COVID-19 outcomes were projected to decrease nationally through mid-March 2022. In this setting, vaccination of children 5-11 years old was associated with reductions in projections for all-age cumulative cases (7.2%, mean incidence ratio [IR] 0.928, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.880-0.977), hospitalizations (8.7%, mean IR 0.913, 95% CI 0.834-0.992), and deaths (9.2%, mean IR 0.908, 95% CI 0.797-1.020) compared with scenarios without childhood vaccination. Vaccine benefits increased for scenarios including a hypothesized more transmissible variant, assuming similar vaccine effectiveness. Projected relative reductions in cumulative outcomes were larger for children than for the entire population. State-level variation was observed.

Interpretation: Given the scenario assumptions (defined before the emergence of Omicron), expanding vaccination to children 5-11 years old would provide measurable direct benefits, as well as indirect benefits to the all-age U.S. population, including resilience to more transmissible variants.

Funding: Various (see acknowledgments).

Keywords: COVID-19; Modeling; SARS-CoV-2; Scenario projection; Vaccination; Variant emergence.