What if there was a deadly virus that had already killed hundreds of children — more than four times more than during a typical flu season? (1, 2)
What if that virus had hospitalized thousands of children and left many of them with long-term health complications? (3)
What if that virus mutates into a version now twice as contagious, easily finding children who are too young to be vaccinated or whose parents are hesitant or outright refusing to vaccinate their vulnerable children?
What if that virus had caused an 84% spike in pediatric cases in the past week alone, filling pediatric intensive care units across the country with critically ill children? And what if that virus was in the community where you live and local rates are rising exponentially — wouldn’t you do anything to protect your child? Wouldn’t you like public health and pediatrics experts to determine the most effective ways to protect your child?
There is such a virus. It is of course Covid-19. And severe cases are escalating among unvaccinated children. This is a fact. Medical fact that can be easily confirmed by examining unbiased and reliable medical and scientific sources. As our children return to school in a few weeks, experts recommend that children aged two and over wear masks within schools to protect them from Covid.
Public health decisions designed to keep children healthy and safe should not be made by inspectors and school districts without direct consultation and confirmation from reputable medical health experts. Period. They should not be determined by popular request or by the loudest voice in the room.
Long before Covid, pediatricians were the trusted source of advice for parents on how to keep children healthy and safe. With the advent of vaccination, pediatricians like us today see far fewer deaths and seriously ill children than generations before us.
Parents used to fear diseases like polio and measles that could kill their children or leave them with permanent disabilities. Widespread vaccination has allayed those fears.
A big part of what we do as pediatricians is preventative: preventing injury by teaching parents how to use car seats properly, by teaching parents to place sleeping babies on their backs, by advising pre-teens about the dangers of vapors before they start, by encouraging vaccination to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases. We have dedicated our lives to and are passionate about the health and well-being of our young patients.
There is nothing more tragic than the death or injury of a child that could have been prevented; nothing that tears a family apart more than the serious illness, injury or death of a child that should not have happened, which could have been prevented if only medical advice had been followed.
We know that vaccinating all eligible adults and children will help protect children who are too young to be vaccinated. We know that wearing masks in school prevents transmission of Covid (4) and worked last year to keep levels of Covid in schools the same or below community rates. Pediatricians across the country are sounding the alarm that without universal masks in schools this year we will continue to see an exponential increase in pediatric Covid infections that will have devastating consequences.
Pediatricians want our children to go back to school, but we want them back safely. Despite the misinformation circulating about mask-wearing in young children, the good news is that the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have determined that mask-wearing is safe for children. (5)
Wearing a mask does not cause carbon dioxide poisoning, lack of oxygen, colonization with deadly bacteria or a weakened immune system. We understand these parental concerns and continue to work to expose this troublesome misinformation. (6)
Together with pediatricians and public health experts across the country, we are urging parents to vaccinate their children who are eligible for a vaccine against Covid. Speaking of science, we demand that school principals and school boards across the country follow the recommendations of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and local health departments advising that children wear masks in schools. Our ultimate responsibility lies with the children. Their health and well-being is in our hands.
dr. Eve Meltzer Krief
dr. Sara Siddic
Legislative Advocacy Committee Co-Chairs Long Island/Queens/Brooklyn Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics