The Potential Impact on Youth Sports due to the COVID-19 Vaccine

On May 10, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine became eligible for all youth over the age of 12 years old. Currently, further testing is going on to determine if the vaccine can be taken as low as age five.

Will the vaccine have a significant impact on the return of youth sports?

As expected, questions are already being asked concerning the vaccine.

Will coaches, leagues, or schools make the vaccine mandatory since youth are now eligible? Will parents be on board with the vaccine?

If coaches or schools make the vaccine mandatory, there will surely be pushback from parents. Some do not choose to vaccinate for religious reasons, while others think the vaccine is a waste. On the opposite side, other parents will praise the mandatory vaccine and have their children first in line now that their age group is able to receive it.

Some parents mention how they were apprehensive about getting their child vaccinated but went through with it after receiving guidance from a doctor or someone who had their child of or around the same age vaccinated.

In an interview done by patch.com, David Shaffer, the Real Salt Lake-AZ North director of coaching for RSL AZ MLS NEXT, said despite the vaccine becoming available, it is not mandatory for his group. Even before the vaccine rolled out, he said, his elite team training was normal because of the organization’s ability to follow the guidelines outlined by the country and state.

“Before the vaccine became available, some parents had their kids return to soccer practices once they felt it was safe,” he said. “Those decisions, then and now, don’t involve the coaching staff. Nobody has asked me about getting vaccinated or not. Most of the decisions have been made by the families themselves.”

Will more coaches adapt this same policy? Will other coaches make it mandatory?

With most schools returning to fully in person in the fall after being fully virtual or hybrid for the last year, people are wondering if special privileges will be given to those who are vaccinated. After all, for example, Michelle Grisham, Governor of New Mexico announced days ago that fully vaccinated youth would no longer have to wear masks on the field during the game.

Other states have lifted the mask mandate whether youth are vaccinated or not. Currently, at the time of publication, around 30 states have lifted the mask mandate all together. Others, like California, West Virginia and Oregon are advising all unvaccinated individuals to still wear a mask, while vaccinated individuals do not have to pertaining to the current CDC guidelines. However, some summer youth camps and events, such as in Rhode Island, have announced the mask mandate will be lifted for everyone outdoors.

All in all, there are two reactions to the announcement that vaccines are safe for ages 12 and up. We have the ones who say “absolutely not” and the ones who say “sign me up.” There will certainly be more to the story as the summer moves on and eventually comes to an end with the return of in-person learning in the fall. Schools will resume sports and youth will resume playing them. It is only a matter of time before the next development in the story.