As our children get ready to head back to class as our state deals with another surge in Covid cases, you probably have some questions. Do I still need to get a vaccine if I’ve had Covid already? Can I still get sick if I’m vaccinated? Do I need to change the type of mask I send my child to school in since there is no mask mandate?
We took these questions to Dr. Allison Ford Messina, chairman of the Division of Infectious Disease at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, to get answers for you.
- Hillsborough County Schools Answers Common Covid Questions As Kids Head Back to Class
- Covid Questions: A BayCare pediatrician shares what they’re seeing now in Tampa Bay and addresses concerns from local families
As my child heads back to class, what is the best way to protect them from contracting Covid?
Dr. Messina: If your child is age 12 or above, the best way to protect your child is to get your child vaccinated against COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine is the only one that is approved for ages 12 and up and is a 2 dose series, with the two doses given three weeks apart. Your child will have optimal immunity starting 2 weeks after the second dose.
Even if you are vaccinated, however, wearing a mask while in public, indoor spaces offers even further protection. If your child is younger than age 12, the best way to protect your child in an indoor classroom environment is to have your child wear a mask to school, and wash or santize hands frequently. Try to maintain physical distancing in times when masks cannot be worn, (ie mealtime). Also, in order to protect children under 12, household members who are over 12 can be vaccinated to protect them in the home.
Since masks are optional at my child’s school should I buy a different kind of mask like a KN-95 or are cloth masks sufficient?
Dr. Messina: Some masks such as KN-95s may indeed offer increased capacity to filer virus, but the most important thing is that the mask fits well. A mask should cover nose and mouth and should not have wide gaps under the chin or on the sides. If a cloth mask is worn, it should have at least 2 layers of cloth and should be not be so thin that light passes through the fabric when held up to the light.
(*added from previous question regarding masks) Alternatively, a single use, disposable medical procedure mask could be worn as well. If this type of mask is chosen it still needs to fit correctly. Small, disposable procedure masks are available in child sizes.
What are the concerns about the Delta variant and kids?
Dr. Messina: The Delta variant of the SARS CoV 2 virus is more contagious than the virus that was circulating last year. Those who are unvaccinated (including children) are more likely to catch this virus from others and they are more likely to spread it, too.
Are children getting sicker with the Delta variant?
Dr. Messina: It is not clear that children are getting sicker with the delta variant, but we are seeing proportionally more cases in youger age groups who are not able to be vaccinated yet.
If I’m vaccinated and my child is not, do I still need to wear a mask when out in public?
Dr. Messina: It still may be a good idea to wear a mask in public–even if your are vaccinated–in order to protect your household members who are not.
If I get a breakthrough case of COVID, is it possible to pass the virus onto my child?
Dr. Messina: A vaccinated person can still get COVID and still may be able to spread it. Although it is unlikely that a vaccinated person would get very ill, they could still get mild disease and spread it to others. They may be LESS LIKELY to do so, but it is possible.
If I’m vaccinated, but my unvaccinated child contracts Covid-is it possible for me to get sick and spread to others?
Dr. Messina: Yes, it is possible. Vaccinated people can still get sick with the Delta variant of COVID. Fortunately, if you do become infected, you are very unlikely to become seriously ill. However, you CAN spread it to others. This is why vaccinated people should continue to wear masks when they go to indoor public spaces.
Are the at-home Covid tests reliable or should I go to a medical facility to take a Covid test?
Dr. Messina: The most reliable COVID tests are PCR based tests. Most of these are done at medical or laboratory facilities.
If my child or if I have already had Covid, do we really need to get the vaccine and are kids who had Covid earlier in the pandemic contracting the new variant?
Dr. Messina: If you have had COVID before, you are still at risk of becoming ill again, as your immunity after natural infection tends to wane after about 90 days. If you get the vaccine after you have recovered from COVID, however, your immunity is very strong—even stronger than if you had just had the vaccine alone in fact.
What are some other steps parents can take to keep their children healthy and prevent illness?
Dr. Messina: Do not send your child to school if they are sick. Even if they have mild cold symptoms, discuss with their pediatrician to see if they need to be tested for COVID before sending to school. Continue to encourage handwashing. In households with children too young to be vaccinated, encourage the older members of the family to get vaccinated. Most children catch COVID from the adults around them. Be sure children are up to date on all of their other vaccines, including the yearly vaccine for influenza.
Anything else you want to add that you think is important for parents to know?
Dr. Messina: Remember that no one strategy to prevent people from getting COVI D is perfect. But, as we layer the different strategies–vaccines, plus masks for example–you get a high level of protection. Lets do our best to keep ourselves and others around us healthy.
You can read an earlier interview with Dr. Messina regarding ways to protect your family from Covid-19 here.
Related stories you may love:
- Cold, COVID, or the flu? How to know and ways to treat
- A Gratitude Story: How the Tampa Bay community rallied around a local dad during his battle against COVID
- When COVID and flu season collide: How you can protect your family
- Pro Tips: How to stay safe while traveling in the world of COVID-19
- My child has to quarantine. Now what?
*Photo credit: Drazen Zigic, iStock by Getty Images