The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday it will continue to recommend schools implement mask mandates for students and staff even after young children are allowed to be vaccinated.
The agency’s school mask guidance will remain unchanged as the vaccine roll out for children aged 5 to 11 – which is expected to begin in a matter of weeks – is implemented, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 briefing.
The Food and Drug Administration and CDC are expected to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for elementary school youngsters after they meet to review the data on Nov. 1.
“Right now we are going to continue to recommend masks in all schools for all people in those schools, and we will look forward to scaling out pediatric vaccination during this period of time,” Walensky said.
Walensky said previous data had shown schools with mask mandates in place were “3.5 times less likely to have school outbreaks requiring school closure.”
The CDC’s current guidance calls for universal indoor masking for students, teachers, staff and visitors to K-12 schools regardless of their vaccination status.
Anti-mask protests have erupted in various states in recent months as angry parents try to stop schools from forcing their kids to don masks.
As recently as Wednesday, a New Hampshire judge dismissed a request to stop enforcing a mask-wearing policy at a number of school districts in the state’s Rockingham County.
Walensky’s latest mask comments came as the White House outlined its plan to roll out the vaccine to young children, pending its authorization from US drug regulators.
The Biden administration said Wednesday it had obtained enough Pfizer shots to inoculate all 28 million children in the 5 to 11 age range.
Under the plan, children would be able to get the shot at their doctor’s office, pharmacy and potentially even their school.
Pfizer asked for emergency FDA approval for its COVID-19 vaccine for young children earlier this month, saying it was proven to be safe and effective in clinical trials with kids ages 5 to 11.
The Pfizer vaccine is already authorized for emergency use in those ages 12 to 15 and is fully approved for anyone over the age of 16.