By Leandris C. Liburd, PhD, MPH, Associate Director for Minority Health and Health Equity for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Can you tell us more about the new guidance for COVID-19 vaccinations for children under 5 years of age?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, thousands of children and youth in the United States have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and hundreds have died. Parents and caregivers have the power to protect their children against getting very sick or dying from COVID-19. Everyone ages 6 months and older can now get vaccinated against COVID-19, and everyone ages 5 years and older can get a booster if eligible. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a key step in protecting children so they can safely participate in sports, playdates, and other group activities. Please visit CDC’s website for the latest guidance on the COVID-19 Immunization Schedule for Children 6 Months through 17 Years of Age.
How can I keep my newborn and school-aged children safe as they return to school?
COVID-19 protocols may vary based on where you live. Check your local health department and school for the latest COVID-19 prevention information in your community. When the COVID-19 Community Level is high, CDC recommends universal indoor masking in schools and early care and education programs, and other community settings. At low and medium COVID-19 Community Levels, masking is optional. For high-risk activities such as indoor sports, crowded outdoor events, and extracurricular activities such as band, choir, and theater, you can consider masking as a prevention strategy for your child or youth, especially during periods of high COVID-19 Community Levels.
CDC also recommends keeping your child or youth at home when they are sick and getting them tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms. Diagnostic testing is recommended for anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who has potentially been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Screening testing should be considered if you live in areas with medium or high COVID-19 Community Levels. Screening tests are intended to identify people with COVID-19 who do not have symptoms associated with COVID-19 and have no known exposure to someone with COVID.
Frequent handwashing, checking with your child’s or youth’s school to see if policies are in place to increase ventilation, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces are other important ways to keep children and youth safe. Ensure your child or youth is up to date on all other routine vaccinations. Most importantly, getting vaccinated will slow the spread of the virus in our households, schools, and communities.
What resources help parents make informed decisions about protecting themselves and their families against COVID-19?
Visit CDC’s Protecting Our Children and Youth from COVID-19: Information for Parents, Caregivers, and Community Partners Webinar webpage at www.cdc.gov/protect-children.The webinar, which was previously recorded, includes information from pediatric vaccine experts and community members leading COVID-19 vaccination efforts for children and youth across the country. The webpage includes fact sheets in seven different languages that you can download and print. It also has a list of resources for you to read and share with your friends, family, and community members.