Will COVID-19 vaccines for younger kids end masking in schools?

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- Two COVID-19 vaccines for children may be on the way.

Pfizer’s vaccine is awaiting CDC approval after an FDA panel recommended it for children ages 5 to 11. Moderna has also announced it will request authorization for its pediatric vaccine.

While the vaccines may mean more children are protected, they may not change protocols at schools right away.

Dr. Emmanuel Walter helped lead Pfizer child vaccine trial at Duke University. When asked about doing away with masking in schools, he said the idea was “a little premature.”

Walter said there were two things that had to happen for schools to start considering getting rid of the masks at school. Walter said there needed to be high levels of vaccination uptake in children and rates of community transmission need to come down.

“I think we can have those discussions in a few months from now but I’m not sure we’re there yet,” Walter said.

While Pfizer’s vaccine for children 5 to 11 may become available as early as next week, Walter said it will take time to get large numbers of children vaccinated.

“It may not all happen before the Thanksgiving holiday but trying to get as many kids vaccinated before the winter holidays is important,” Walter said.

Right now, most of North Carolina is still experiencing high rates of community transmission. About a dozen counties have lower but still substantial levels of transmission. No counties have low levels of transmission.

The CDC still recommends universal indoor masking by all students, staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. The point to the Delta which still makes up almost all COVID-19 cases in the country.

School masking continues to be questioned by some people. In a report from earlier this month, the CDC found schools that started the school year without masking requirements were 3.5 more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Children aren’t totally spared from COVID-19,” said Walter.

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