As we enter the second month of the new school year and given the high number of COVID-19 cases, many reasonable questions arise regarding the protection of our children against COVID-19. The Doctors of the Department of Clinical Therapeutics, of the School of Medicine, of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Lina Paschou (Assistant Professor of Endocrinology), Theodora Psaltopoulou (Professor of Therapeutic-Preventive Medicine) and Thanos Dimopoulos (Professor of Clinical Therapeutics- Rheumatology-Oncology-Chancellor of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens), and provide practical advice.

According to a recent CDC study in the US, the risk of spreading COVID-19 in schools, where the use of masks was not compulsory, was 3.5 times higher than when using a mask. Specifically, the study gathered data from 1,000 schools in the State of Arizona and found that there were 113 COVID-19 cases spreading to schools within a month, when not using a mask, while fewer and more isolated cases occurred in schools, where the use of masks was compulsory. Of course, protecting children at school is only one piece of the puzzle, as it is also important to follow safe practices at home or elsewhere, so as to reduce the risk of contagion. Another CDC study, also published recently, found that children had similar rates of infection compared to adults.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are currently approved for children over 12 years old by the FDA (USA) and EMA (Europe). Both are mRNA vaccines, i.e. they do not contain the virus or part of it but a set of information to train human cells to make a protein that will activate the immune system to produce protective antibodies. The Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 is expected to be approved, possibly within the next month. For those children, who are not yet eligible for vaccination, the best protection we can give them is to make sure everyone around them is vaccinated. The use of a mask is also very important, while distances and possibly isolation in some cases may be needed during the following period.

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