A safe return to U.S. schools seems closer with vaccines and testing improvements.

By Lauren McCarthy and Emily Anthes

After a school year rife with debate over the safety of returning to classrooms, experts say that the United States is edging closer to a safe return to in-person learning in the fall.

First, there is continuing good news on the vaccine front. Last month, about 17 million children ages 12 to 15 became eligible to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. And Moderna plans this month to ask the Food and Drug Administration to clear its vaccine for use in 12- to 17-year-olds.

For more than a year, parents across the United States have scrambled to adapt to online learning and keep their children focused. (And parents who balanced remote learning with work were the lucky ones. Many others lost their jobs, lacked adequate internet access or stopped work to tend to their families.)

Until vaccines are approved for children of all ages, rapid antigen testing might be the best way to limit rare outbreaks of the virus, detect them early and keep schools open consistently.

There are signs that Abbott’s BinaxNOW, a widely available antigen test, is highly sensitive in young children with symptoms of Covid-19, according to a small new study. Among children younger than 7, the test detected 100 percent of coronavirus cases, researchers write in a forthcoming paper in the journal Pediatrics.

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