Infectious Disease

Everyone should wear masks in schools, regardless of vaccination status

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The AAP said Monday that everyone aged 2 and over in school should wear a mask regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, as many students are not eligible for a vaccination and it is difficult to tell who was vaccinated.

The recommendation was part of an updated Back to School Guide in which the AAP “strongly” recommended face-to-face learning and encouraged eligible students, teachers and staff to be vaccinated.

Source: Adobe Stock.

“Our priority must be getting children back into schools with their friends and teachers – and we all help to ensure that it happens safely.” Sonja OLeary, MD, FAAP, The chairman of the AAP Student Health Council said in a new press release. “The pandemic has taken a heartbreaking toll on children and not only has their education suffered, but their mental, emotional and physical health has also suffered. The combination of protective layers that include vaccinations, masks and clean hand hygiene will make personal learning safe and possible for everyone. “

The AAP’s universal masking recommendation came less than 2 weeks after the CDC updated its guidelines, just to say that unvaccinated individuals older than 2 years should wear a mask indoors at all times. Like the AAP, the CDC recommended that classroom training be given priority.

In the press release, the AAP said it recommends universal masking because “a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines and masking has been shown to reduce the transmission of the virus and protect those who are not vaccinated”. Exceptions should be made for children with medical or developmental conditions that prohibit the use of a mask.

“Many schools will not have a system to monitor the vaccination status of students, teachers and staff, and some communities have low overall vaccination intake where the virus may be more widely circulated,” the AAP said.

In addition, the AAP said its guidelines “reinforce” the CDC recommendations on building ventilation, testing, quarantine, cleaning and disinfection.

“There are many children and others who cannot be vaccinated” Sara Bode, MD, FAAP, elected chair of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee, said in the press release. “This is why it is important to use every tool in our toolkit to help protect children from COVID-19. Universal masking is one of those tools and has also been shown to be effective in protecting people from other respiratory diseases. It’s also the most effective strategy for creating consistent messages and expectations in students without having to monitor everyone’s vaccination status. “

Additional AAP recommendations include:

  • Schools should be prepared to take an all-encompassing approach to mental health support.
  • Adequate and timely resources for COVID-19 testing must be available and accessible.
  • Strategies should be revised and adjusted across the community and schools based on the level of virus transmission and the test positive rate.
  • School policy should be adapted to new information about the pandemic; Administrators should refine approaches when certain policies don’t work.
  • School districts must be in close contact and coordinate with state and / or local health officials, school nurses, local pediatricians, and other medical experts.

The AAP also urged families to call their pediatrician and educate the children about any vaccines they may have missed during the pandemic, including the flu.

“The last thing we want after this pandemic is another vaccine-preventable disease outbreak,” O’Leary said. “Now is the time we all worked together to keep our children healthy and safe. Your pediatrician can help families who have questions or concerns about returning to the classroom. “

References:

AAP. COVID-19 Guide to Safe Schools. https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/clinical-guidance/covid-19-planning-considerations-return-to-in-person-education-in- Schools/. Accessed July 19, 2021.

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