EDINBURG, Texas (KVEO) — With school starting back up in a few weeks, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) went against the CDC mask guidelines that said that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask, and recommended fully vaccinated teens and adults continue to wear masks.
Both groups recommend that unvaccinated teens, as well as those unable to get the vaccine, continue to wear masks when school returns.
Only the Pfizer vaccine has received FDA Emergency Use Authorization for people 12-15. Pfizer is also the only vaccine approved for use by teens 16-18.
So far, no vaccine is available to kids younger than 12, doctors blame that large unvaccinated population, plus vaccine hesitancy in adults, for causing a shift in where they’re seeing COVID cases.
“We’ve seen many young students, so nine, ten-year-olds up to early mid 20s to 30s,” said Dr. Marissa Gomez-Martinez, the medical director for DHR Edinburg CISD health center.
Masks have not been mandatory in Texas since Governor Greg Abbott’s March Executive Order GA-34.
Both orders allow businesses to set their own mask requirements.
The widespread availability of vaccines had caused new COVID cases and hospitalizations to drop, but children under 12 aren’t able to get the vaccines, and now cases are beginning to rise again.
“Now that they’re not having to wear masks, [and] kids are being exposed to each other perhaps, there has been an uptick of children getting sick,” said Gomez-Martinez.
The AAP is recommending students, faculty, and staff continue to wear masks while in class, but in Texas, they can’t be forced to.
Gomez-Martinez is also encouraging people to continue wearing masks until COVID is better under control.
“Remember, masks make a huge difference,” she said.
Children having severe cases of COVID is rare, but Gomez-Martinez said that children spreading COVID is not.
She said that there are already examples of children spreading the disease in environments that are similar to school.
“Camps are what we’ve seen,” explained Gomez-Martinez. “The children going to camps and being exposed there, bringing it home to unvaccinated people, or even a couple of vaccinated people.”
She said that the majority of positive COVID cases in people who have been fully vaccinated, referred to as “breakthrough cases”, have been in people who are in general at higher risk for COVID due to comorbidities, such as the elderly, obese people, people with diabetes, and cancer patients.
Both the CDC and the AAP recommend everyone gets vaccinated, but there is still a portion of the population who are undecided or unsure about getting the vaccine.
To those people, Gomez-Martinez recommends they should speak to a trusted expert, like their primary care physician.
She also added that the vaccines are typically very safe.
“In general, I have not seen any severe side effects from the vaccine, so any concerns that someone has I encourage them: write them down and consult their physician,” said Gomez-Martinez.