With the threat of new COVID variants spreading rapidly across the country, and schools gearing up for the 2021-2022 school year, The American Academy of Pediatrics has released new COVID-19 guidance for schools. The AAP recommends masks should be worn in schools, for those over the age of two, regardless of vaccinations.
“The AAP believes that, at this point in the pandemic, given what we know about low rates of in-school transmission when proper prevention measures are used, together with the availability of effective vaccines for those age 12 years and up, that the benefits of in-person school outweigh the risks in all circumstances,” the guidance says.
According to an article by CNN, this is a stricter position than that released this month by the CDC. The reasons for this recommendation include but are not limited to: a significant proportion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccination; masking protects those who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 and reduces transmission; and potential difficulty in monitoring or enforcing mask policies for those who are not vaccinated.
“We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers — and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely,” Sonja O’Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health said in an interview with NBC News. “Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said on CNN that the guidance for schools makes sense.
“When you have a degree of viral dynamics in the community, and you have a substantial proportion of the population that is unvaccinated, that you really want to go the extra step, the extra mile to make sure that there’s not a lot of transmission, even breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals,” he said.
The chief medical adviser to the president continued, “I think that the American Academy of Pediatrics, you know, they’re a thoughtful group, they analyze the situation and if they feel that that’s the way to go, I think that’s a reasonable thing to do.”
As of now, children 12-years-old and up are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Although vaccines are not available for those under 12, the FDA is moving quickly to get emergency authorization for that age group and vaccines could be ready as early as midwinter.