Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said Wednesday that she believes children should continue to wear face masks in school even after they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, even as the Biden administration ramps up a national effort to roll out the vaccine to children between the ages of 5 and 11 as soon as the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) gives emergency use approval.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue recommending children wear masks in school going into the winter months even if COVID-19 vaccines are approved for more school-age children, Dr. Walensky announced Wednesday,” Sinclair Media noted following a press conference
“After we have authorization from FDA and recommendations from CDC, we will be working to scale up pediatric vaccination,” Walensky said. “That said, it will take some time. And as I just noted, as we head into these winter months, we know we cannot be complacent.”
“So right now, we’re going to continue to recommend masks in all schools, for all people in those schools,” she said.
Experts who spoke to Sinclair’s national desk were shocked by the recommendation, pointing out that the push to vaccinate younger children was designed to bring about a return to “normal,” particularly in educational settings.
“The entire point of the vaccines is to get back to normal, and the CDC this morning really has not been messaging confidence in these vaccines,” Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, told the outlet, adding that she was “surprised” at Walensky’s guidance.
As The Daily Wire reported earlier Wednesday, “[s]ince January 2020, fewer than 450 children between the ages of 5 and 18 have died of COVID-19, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The American Academy of Pediatrics says that, in the 45 states with data current as of October 18, childhood COVID-19 cases resulted in deaths in between 0% and .03% of infected children.”
The AAP did note, however, that available data has not yet provided a clear picture of how the virus affects children specifically.
“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children,” the AAP noted. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”
It is also not clear whether school districts will require vaccines for students under the age of 12. So far, Los Angeles is the largest school district to announce that all students must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend classes, and that mandate will apply to 5- to 11-year-olds once an age-appropriate version of the vaccine has been approved for that group.
Teachers unions, who have enjoyed a close working relationship with the CDC, and Walensky in particular, have been openly resistant to vaccine mandates for teachers, faculty, and administrators, but have pressed for universal masking requirements. The CDC reportedly tightened mask guidelines for children in school after being warned by powerful teachers’ unions that they would go public with criticism of the Biden administration. Walensky’s senior staff worked with the groups directly to reconfigure the agency’s masking requirements for schoolchildren.