Now That Kids Can Be Vaccinated For COVID, What Does That Mean For Mask Mandates?
The moment we all have been waiting for has finally arrived! The kids Covid vaccine is here for all, y’all. If you’re a parent to a little, aged 5 to 11, the FDA has finally given the green light for them to receive their Covid-19 vaccine. It feels like we can heave a collective sigh of relief knowing that they have an extra layer of protection. With that being said, what does this mean for the future of masking, social distancing, and other preventative measures?
Well, as we learned back in March of 2020, the science around Covid isn’t black and white. Nor is Covid a static, predictable disease. Knowledge about Covid, how it spreads, what the symptoms are, and what to do if you’re exposed to it has come a long way. But, just as we saw when the vaccine was widely available to adolescents and adults, a vaccine in itself doesn’t put a hard stop to the spread. With the kids Covid vaccine come a million questions. First, and foremost, does this mean kids no longer have to wear masks?
Honestly, we all know there isn’t a one size fits all answer, folks. The data is going to vary from region to region. For people who choose to hold anti-mask rallies (cough, superspreader events) and berate their school boards for making decisions to keep all kids safe… well, we already know what their stance is. But as for the rest of us, it looks like we can be cautiously optimistic about our kids not always having to wear a mask.
Follow the Data, Not the Politics
Not to state the obvious, but the first step toward going maskless is for kids to actually get vaccinated. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, only about 34% of parents plan to get their 5-11 year-olds vaccinated right away. That leaves the other two-thirds of younger children in the same spot they are now. Defenseless against Covid. Well, except for solid hand-washing skills, social distancing, and wearing masks. But, ever since the CDC has asked us to wear masks, there have been divided opinions. The problem is these opinions were largely based on politics. And if there is one thing that should never be politicized, it’s public health and safety. According to the New York Times, experts agree the road to lifting masking requirements should take into account two considerations: First, timing needs to be factored in. Secondly, criteria for masking and lifting mandatory masking needs to be put in place.
When it comes to timing, how long will it take for everyone who wants their child vaccinated to get them vaccinated? Even though many parents have been anxiously awaiting a kids Covid vaccine doesn’t mean logistically there won’t be speed bumps. Determining when mandatory masking can end should, in part, depend on how long it takes for kids to be fully vaccinated.
Secondly, what do general Covid data and trends in your state and county look like? Tying a masking requirement to the data makes sense. This is the one thing that should be black and white (on a county or school district basis). If a certain level of new Covid cases breaches the threshold, masking goes back in place to protect everyone. When it’s below the threshold, transmission is low enough to safely allow students to go maskless.
At the end of the day, vaccination matters. Science supports the fact that people who are vaccinated are less likely to spread any disease. This leads us to another important point, don’t forget, it’s still cold and flu season. If you’re getting your flu vaccine, kill two birds with one stone and get your Covid vaccine at the same time. A study found initially, the same level of the virus was detected in people regardless of vaccine status. But, by day seven, those levels dropped quickly in people who were vaccinated, which means they were less likely to continue to spread the disease. Friends, sharing is not caring when it comes to Covid or any other virus for that matter.
Vaccination especially matters for our littles. Kids have the uncanny ability to pick up a million and two germs at school and bring them home to the rest of the family. So do yourself and everyone you live with a favor. The reality is, the sooner kids get their Covid vaccines, the sooner we return to a more normal “normal.” Vaccination doesn’t mean that you can’t still pick up Covid, but it does mean you’re less likely to end up in the hospital or die from exposure.
If you’re in the two-thirds of parents who are going to wait and see about the kids Covid vaccine, go ahead — but make sure your littles are still wearing their mask. I know, I know, we all want teachers and friends to be able to see each other’s smiling faces again. But if you aren’t going to get the kids vaccinated, you shouldn’t ditch the mask. We can’t keep everyone safe and have it both ways.
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