How schools plan to keep students safe from COVID as cold weather arrives

Medical experts say schools can still keep kids safe from COVID-19 even if the colder temperatures make it harder for open air access.

10/27/2021 8:49:00 PM

Despite the disadvantage colder weather brings, medical experts and physicians say elementary and middle school administrators can still limit the spread of the virus during the next couple of months as the vaccine rollout begins for younger age groups.

Medical experts say schools can still keep kids safe from COVID-19 even if the colder temperatures make it harder for open air access.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administrationvoted Tuesdayto allow the Pfizer mRNA vaccine to be used for 5-to 11-year-olds. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are slated to vote on approving the vaccine for that age group as early as next week.

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The Pfizer vaccine has been available to anyone over 12 since the spring after it was given an emergency use authorization. The FDA fully approved the Pfizer vaccine for anyone 16 and older in August.Spencer Platt/Getty Images, FILEA nurse administers the Covid-19 vaccine to a teen in Springfield, Mo., Aug 05, 2021.

Liu, who reviewed the data Pfizer sent to the FDA last week on 5- to 11-year-olds, said the clinical trials have shown the vaccine to be very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths among that age group, so as more kids receive their doses, the safer classrooms will be in the winter.

Although it will take about five weeks for a student to be fully vaccinated from both doses, including the two-week period to build immunity after their second dose, Liu said that young students will be in a better place the minute they start their vaccination process.

"One shot alone provided strong protection based on that data," she said.Bartlett, who has three sons, two of whom are under 12, said that if the vaccines are approved in November, it would ensure that students have that protection preceding the holidays when they are likely to be celebrating indoors with large groups of people.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images, FILEMasked students are instructed in their classroom in New York Sept. 27, 2021.Coming back from winter break, schools will be able to mitigate any loss of outdoor space and or decreased ventilation if more of their students are vaccinated, Bartlett said. And the vaccinations could help ease class interruptions in another way, she said.

"We'll hopefully be able to manage vaccinated children in a way that they could probably stay in school if exposed to someone with COVID and not have that disruption in their learning," she said.Bartlett warned that it will take a while before schools can start rolling back masking requirements because that will depend on vaccination rates among students.

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"As eager as I am to get kids out of masks, I'm really in the mind to go slow," Bartlett said."Kids are doing an amazing job dealing with wearing masks and getting our kids able to get vaccinated will be a big motivator to get the pandemic under control."

Bartlett added that parents must also be aware of the overall COVID-19 transmission rates within their community during the winter, because it will impact the number of cases in schools. Read more: ABC News »

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