WASHINGTON -- Children may not need to be vaccinated for COVID-19 for parents to send them to camps or playgrounds this summer, the nation's top infectious disease expert told CBS News on Sunday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has previously said that elementary school-aged kids won't likely be vaccinated until the first quarter of 2022, as vaccine developers continued to study their effects in children.
But asked by "Face the Nation" host Margaret Brennan whether parents can send their kids to summer camp without vaccines, Fauci said, "It is conceivable that that will be possible."
Fauci stressed it was important for COVID-19 to continue declining and for infections to not plateau at a high level. But he pointed to the pace of vaccinations for the rest of the population as a main factor, saying there are now between 3 and 3.5 million vaccinations each day.
"If we keep up at that pace, invariably, that's going to drive the rate and the level of infections per day to a much, much lower level," he said.
"If we get into the summer and you have a considerable percentage of the population vaccinated, and the level in the community gets below that plateau that's worrying me and my colleagues in public health," he said, "it is conceivable that you would have a good degree of flexibility during the summer, even with the children with things like camps."
"We don't know that for sure," he cautioned, "but I think that's an aspirational goal that we should go for."
Fully vaccinated people can gather together indoors without masks or social distancing, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They could also visit with unvaccinated people who are at low risk of contracting severe COVID-19, but should be limited to one unvaccinated household at a time.
Just over 15% of the US population has been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data. But each of the vaccines on the US market have only been authorized for adults, though Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine is also authorized for people ages 16 and older.
Trials continue. Last week, children received a shot in Pfizer's Phase 1 trial of children under the age of 12. The week prior, the first children were vaccinated in Moderna's Phase 2 pediatric trial, which includes children from ages 6 months to 11 years.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson has announced plans to start testing its vaccine in children between ages 12 to 18, and the company's CEO has said it will likely have a vaccine available for children under the age of 18 by September.
On Sunday Fauci also reiterated the importance of children being safe when they go out into the community, even if the adults in their lives have been vaccinated.
"You want them to continue to wear masks when they're interacting with groups from multiple households," he said.
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