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Coronavirus FAQ: How can school-age children be protected from COVID?

We answer common questions each week about the coronavirus crisis. Send us an email at goatsandsoda@npr.org if you have any questions. Please include the subject "Weekly Coronavirus Questions." You can find an archive of our FAQs right here.

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Coronavirus FAQ: How can school-age children be protected from COVID?

We answer common questions each week about the coronavirus crisis. Send us an email at goatsandsoda@npr.org if you have any questions. Please include the subject "Weekly Coronavirus Questions." You can find an archive of our FAQs right here.

Are children really required to wear masks after they have been vaccinated?

According to Dr. Abraar Karan at Stanford University, an infectious disease physician, most children who have been infected recently or were vaccinated for COVID should have an immune system strong enough to prevent them from contracting it.

He says that the combination of having COVID and being vaccinated induces stronger immunity than either one. "Of course if the child is immunocompromised [the decision to not mask] will be more difficult and parents should consult their doctors."

However, the risk of developing COVID is generally low due to recent infections and vaccinations.

For now, however, if your child has just recovered from COVID, you can choose to make a mask, provided that you are not violating any mandates.

Lakdawala states that many parents in this situation continue to mask their children because it is part of the social contract for all of us trying together to get through this. She points out that if one child stops wearing a mask to school then another might, as it is impossible to keep track of who was vaccinated and who has COVID.

If you and your child decide not to use masking, don't pressure your child to get theirs off.

She says that if your child is the only one who doesn't wear a mask, and they try to make other kids not wear them, it's not okay. It's important to have a conversation with your children in a mask-optional setting about how you don't want to influence other kids and be tolerant of their needs.

What's the best way for me to protect my children in elementary school from COVID?

Doctors and experts recommend that your 5--12-year-old child be vaccinated. Researchers in Israel published a study Wednesday that found that children who had been vaccinated were half as likely as their peers to contract COVID. However, this protection was only temporary. The rate of infection for both vaccinated teens and those who were not vaccinated was nearly the same after about five months.

Multi-layered strategies are still needed, even though case rates have dropped in certain areas. Lakdawala likens the situation to a battle.

She says, "If we are at war with the virus the vaccine is our armour." This helps us to avoid being badly beaten. However, it does not help us win. We also need a mask to protect us from the virus and other ways to fight back, such as ventilation and ways of cleaning the air.

Parents should ensure that their schools have the latest ventilation and cleaning systems. According to Lakdawala this could mean opening windows and doors at times when schools are most busy. Masks worn by teachers can also reduce classroom transmission. A December study in Germany found that teachers wearing masks at school were more effective at reducing the spread of the virus than students.

Lakdawala states that everyone wants their children to be safe at school, learning and interfacing safely. "So, we must continue to think about all the ways that we can reduce risk in all environments."

What about masks for children?

Experts recommend upgrading to high-filtration respirators in the wake of an omicron surge. These respirators (N95s KN95s KF94s) are the best masks to protect against omicron.

Children can't use N95 masks, but they are available in KN95 or KN94. These masks can be helpful for children in dangerous situations. Landon advises that masking should be considered if your child spends time with someone at greater risk from COVID complications.

Are you ready for an N95 Here are some tips to help you find the right N95 for you.

Are you ready for an N95 Here are some tips to help you find the right N95 for you.

She says, "If their best friend has Type 1 Diabetes and has been fighting some infections recently or has had to take immunoglobulin injections for a primary immune deficiency, then they should be extra careful." If your child wants to be friends with this kid, they must wear a mask every day.

KN95s and KN94s may not be an option for most families. These masks are more expensive than surgical or cloth masks, and they can be less easily re-used than cloth masks. To make the mask effective, a child must wear it consistently.

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