Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Every week we answer frequently asked questions about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question that you would like us to consider for an upcoming article, write to us at [email protected] with the subject “Weekly questions on the coronavirus”. View an archive of our FAQs here.
Do kids really need masks if they’ve been vaccinated and had COVID?
Most children who have recently been infected Where Vaccinated people should have an immune response strong enough to protect them against COVID for several weeks or longer, says Dr. Abraar Karan, an infectious disease physician at Stanford University.
The combination of being vaccinated and having had COVID induces stronger immunity than either, he says in an email. “Of course, if they are immunocompromised, [the decision not to mask] will be more complicated and parents should consult their doctor.”
In general, however, recent infection and vaccination make the risk of contracting COVID so low that the added benefit of a mask is negligible, says Seema Lakdawala, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, specialized in respiratory viruses with pandemic potential. .
That could change over the next year “if a new variant emerges that doesn’t care much about your recent omicron infection,” says Dr. Emily Landon, infectious disease specialist and chief hospital epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medicine.
But for now, if your vaccinated child has recently recovered from COVID, the choice of whether or not to wear a mask is up to you and your child, as long as you don’t violate any warrants.
Many parents in this situation choose to continue masking their children “because it’s part of the social contract of all of us trying to get through this together,” Lakdawala said. If one child stops wearing a mask at school, another may also decide not to, she points out, because it is not possible to track everyone who has contracted COVID and is vaccinated. .
If you and your child decide to forgo the mask, make sure your child doesn’t pressure classmates to take theirs off.
“If your child is the only one not wearing a mask and they try to pressure other children not to wear a mask, even though it may be better for them to [mask]’, she said, ‘that’s not OK. So it’s really important to talk with your kids in mask-optional environments, not try to influence others, and really be tolerant of what they need.”
So if I really don’t want my elementary school-aged kids to get COVID, what’s the best way to protect them?
First, get your child aged 5 to 12 vaccinated, say doctors and experts. In a study published online Wednesday, Israeli scientists found that vaccinated children were half as likely to catch COVID as their unvaccinated peers. But this protection was short-lived. After about five months, the infection rate was almost the same for vaccinated and unvaccinated adolescents.
Even though case rates are dropping in some areas, multi-level strategies are still needed. Lakdawala compares the situation to a battlefield.
“If we are at war with the virus, the vaccine is our armour,” she says. “It helps us not to be badly beaten. But it doesn’t help us to win, so we also need a mask as a shield that helps us block the virus, and then other ways to fight back – like ventilation and means to purify the air – like a sword.”
Parents should check to see if their schools are up to date on their ventilation and air purification systems. This could include opening doors and windows at certain times of the day when classrooms are busiest, according to Lakdawala, and using portable air purifiers or an air filtration system. integrated. Teachers wearing masks can also interfere with transmission in the classroom. According to a German study published in December, teachers wearing masks at school were a more effective strategy for reducing transmission of the virus than students wearing masks.
“Everyone wants children to be in school and to learn and interact safely,” says Lakdawala. “So we need to keep thinking about all the ways to reduce risk in all environments.”
And the masks for the children?
Many experts have recommended switching to high filtration respirators during the omicron push. Indeed, these respirators (N95, KN95, KF94) may be the only useful masks against omicron.
N95 masks are not available for children, but KN95 and KN94 are. Such masks could help children in situations that call for extra caution. If your child’s environment includes spending time with someone at higher risk for COVID-related complications, for example, keep that person in mind when making decisions about masking, advises Landon.
“If their best friend has type 1 diabetes and has recently battled certain infections or has a primary immunodeficiency and needs to take immunoglobulin infusions, then your child should be [extra careful]”, she said. “If your child wants to remain friends with this child, he must wear a mask all the time.”
But for many families, KN95s or KN94s are not a viable option. They are much more expensive than cloth or surgical masks and less reusable than cloth masks. In addition to this, a child must wear the mask consistently to make it effective.
Sheila Mulrooney Eldred is a freelance health reporter in Minneapolis. She has written about COVID-19 for numerous publications, including The New York TimesKaiser Health News, Medscape and The Washington Post. More than sheilaeldred.pressfolios.com. On Twitter: @milepostmedia.