Preparing Your Child For the fall SemesterAs schools around the nation prepare to reopen in-person this fall, many parents and students can’t help but to feel unsettled about returning to their “normal” fall semester. With the delta-variant causing infection rates to rise again in the US, what can we do to best protect our children going back to school in the fall?
Vaccination is the leading public health strategy to prevent COVID-19 infection, and end the pandemic. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is available for children 12 and up. It is a safe and effective measure to slow the spread and prevent serious illness from COVID-19. According to the CDC, this vaccine has been under the most intensive safety monitoring in US history. In order for a vaccine to be approved for children, it must undergo more extensive monitoring and studies than necessary for adult use. Although many parents may not hesitate to get vaccinated themselves, they often feel differently when it comes to their children. Due to this hesitancy, many doctors are posting on Twitter about how they are vaccinating their own children. Dr. Elizabeth Koval, who is an emergency physician, posted that both her children are vaccinated. This was followed by a series of tweets from other doctors who also support the COVID-19 vaccine for their children. Dr. Koval and many other physicians are showing they trust the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine not just for their patients, but for their own children.
Some parents may still be thinking “If the schools are opening full time, there must be social distancing guidelines and precautions.It must be safe, which means I don’t have to get my children vaccinated”. This is not exactly true. Although most schools will enforce a 3 feet social distancing rule, temperature checks and indoor mask-wearing, the rise in cases due to the delta-variant may cause those who are not vaccinated to be more easily infected. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as of July 22nd 2021, children represent about 14.2% of all COVID cases. That is 4,126,570 children who have been infected by COVID, almost 4 times the number of people living in Fairfax County. These numbers are increasing because of variants such as the delta variant. The most recent weekly report indicated that children are now 16.8% of all cases. These variants are found to be much more contagious. In fact, Dr. Walensky, the CDC director, is now commenting that the delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox. The current vaccines available are found to be effective against serious illness caused by the delta-variant, so we urge parents to help protect their children and stop the spread by getting them vaccinated.
Depending on the school system your child may go to, there may be children under the age of 12 not yet eligible for vaccines. This means that it is even more important to implement a layered prevention strategy. In addition to the precautions at school, the vaccine provides extra security from getting seriously ill from COVID-19 infection. It also reduces the chance of spreading the virus to other family members or peers at school who may not yet be vaccinated.
The more students get vaccinated, the faster we can return to normal school routines such as after school activities, sports, and music. These activities are essential to students’ education, as well as their mental health. Schools aren’t just a place of academic enrichment but also a place for children to learn valuable social skills and to develop friendships. For some students, it is the only place with proper internet and resources for adequate learning.
As we have learned from this past year, online learning is difficult for both parents and students. Children and teens have been experiencing emotional distress due to isolation from friends and family. This pandemic has caused them to miss major life events like graduation, school dances and other social gatherings. Students are feeling “zoom fatigue” from online learning, therefore many of them are excited to be going back to in-person learning in the fall. As a community, we can help these students return back to normal school life and social events. We can ensure that students have the best opportunity for a proper education by supporting vaccinations before the start of the school year. We urge parents to talk to children about the vaccine, help reduce any anxieties that they may have regarding the process, and make a decision to end the pandemic together. Talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns regarding any specific questions regarding your child’s health and getting vaccinated, or visit the CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/adolescents.html for more information.