This fall, a mask to protect against COVID-19 is not a required item on most school supply lists as kids across the country return to in-classroom learning. At the start of last school year, about 75% of U.S. schools required masks for students or teachers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. By the end of the year, that number dropped to 15%.
While the outlook for a normal return to school looks promising, health care officials urge parents to take precautions to protect their children from the highly transmissible BA.5 SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariant by getting those who are eligible vaccinated. The shots are fully available to all kids 6 months and older.
In an interview with PBS radio, Sara Bode, M.D., a primary care pediatrician, medical director of Nationwide Children's Hospital's Care Connection School-Based Health and Mobile Clinics in Columbus, Ohio and chair-elect for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on School Health, reports that vaccination rates among children are still low despite widespread accessibility to the doses. As of July 27, 2022, only 5% of 6 month to 4 year olds, 37% of kids ages 5-11, and 69% of kids ages 12-17 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“Although there might not be as many kids with severe complications, that number isn’t zero,” Bode said. “And so [I’m] just really reinforcing to families the reasons why as a pediatrician, I think it’s important for them to get that vaccination.”
In addition to the low COVID-19 vaccinate rates among children, childhood immunization rates overall dropped by one percent − from 95% to 94% − during the 2020-21 school year, according to data released by the CDC. While that number may seem low, it accounts for tens of thousands of children unprotected from common illnesses, such as whooping cough and measles.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital offers a vast recourse hub on protecting families against COVID-19 and the benefits of getting vaccinated. A series of articles to help inform and educate parents covers a wide range of topics – from preparing kids for vaccinations and long-haul COVID to staying healthy during the school year and immunizations to protect against other infectious diseases.
For more information on Nationwide Children’s Hospital and its efforts to protect children from COVD-19 and other illnesses by getting them vaccinated, visit: https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/health-wellness-and-safety-resources/covid-19