News Release

Children Head Back to School Amid an Ongoing Pandemic That Has Had Significant Effects on Their Health and Well-Being

As students head back to in-person school this fall, a new KFF brief highlights the effects of the ongoing pandemic on the health and well-being of children, including missed routine vaccinations and preventive care, mental health challenges and economic setbacks that can influence health.

There had been over 4 million COVID-19 cases among children as of July 29, 2021, with children comprising an increasing share of new cases due to the Delta variant. At the same time, eligible children (those aged 12 and older) have lower COVID-19 vaccination rates than the adult population, and elementary school-aged children remain ineligible for a vaccine.

While experts generally agree the benefits of in-person school outweigh the risks from the virus, the health care disruptions, mental health challenges, and economic hardships stemming from COVID-19 all have implications for children’s health, and some children may need additional supports during their transition back to school.

Among the key findings in the new analysis are high rates of disruptions in routine vaccinations or preventive care and difficulty accessing care. For instance, an estimated 1 in 4 households with children have a child who missed, delayed, or skipped a preventive appointment in the past 12 months due to the pandemic, according to KFF analysis of the Household Pulse Survey from June 23 – July 5, 2021. Use of telemedicine has increased but not enough to offset overall declines in service utilization.

Households with children also have experienced significantly higher rates of economic hardship during the pandemic than households without children. Among adults reporting income loss in the past 4 weeks, 91 percent of adults with children in the household reported difficulty paying for expenses in the past week, 20 percent reported not having confidence in their ability to make their next month’s housing payment, and 32 percent reported food insufficiency – all rates higher than those among adults living in households without children. Black, Hispanic, and other people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic’s economic effects.

The full analysis, Back to School amidst the New Normal: Ongoing Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Children’s Health and Well-Being, as well as other data and analyses related to COVID-19, are available at

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The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.