The American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidance for the 2021-22 school year on Monday “strongly encouraging” COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone eligible, as well as the continued use of face masks for all students, teachers and staff.
“As the next school year begins, there needs to be a continued focus on keeping students safe, since not all students will have the opportunity or be eligible to be vaccinated before the start of the next school year,” the AAP guidance states.
The pediatricians’ group says in-person learning can be done safely and says the benefits of in-person school outweigh the risks “in almost all circumstances.”
“Remote learning highlighted inequities in education, was detrimental to the educational attainment of students of all ages, and exacerbated the mental health crisis among children and adolescents,” the group said.
To make in-person learning as safe as possible, the APP urges all who are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The group also says everyone over the age of two should continue to wear a mask in school settings, regardless of vaccination status.
“Universal masking is the best and most effective strategy to create consistent messages, expectations, enforcement, and compliance without the added burden of needing to monitor vaccination status,” the AAP said.
The AAP is also urging parents to make sure their children are caught up on all vaccines before school starts, including the flu shot.
“The last thing we want as we come out of this pandemic is an outbreak of another vaccine-preventable disease,” said Dr. Sonja O’Leary who is chair of the AAP Council on School Health. “Now is the time for all of us to work together to keep our kids healthy and safe. Your pediatrician can help families who have any questions or concerns about returning to the classroom.”
The AAP said it is “amplifying” the recommendations the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued earlier this month for building ventilation, testing, quarantining, cleaning and disinfection in schools.
The CDC is recommending that schools maintain 3 feet of physical distance between students in classrooms but at this point is only recommending indoor mask wearing for those who are not vaccinated.