The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidance Monday that advises that schoolchildren older than age 2 should wear masks regardless of vaccination status when schools reopen for the fall. The nation’s leading organization of pediatricians said it’s recommending universal masking because so many students are not yet eligible for coronavirus vaccines and masks have proven to reduce transmission and offer some protection to those who haven’t been vaccinated. Universal masking is “the most effective strategy to create consistent messages and expectations among students without the added burden of needing to monitor everyone’s vaccination status,” Sara Bode, chairperson-elect of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee, said in a statement.
The new guidance comes as the leading pediatrics body has pressed for prioritizing getting children back into schools alongside friends and teachers, while seeking out ways to do so safely and mitigating the risks of community transmission as new more contagious COVID-19 variants have emerged that also present the risk of potential worsening illness. An approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids in the 5 to 11 age group is not expected until midwinter, the companies said last week.