Reducing children’s health risks when they return to school | latin voices | Chicago News

Classes are back this week in many school districts, including Chicago Public Schools. As the pandemic continues to evolve, this year comes with new protocols for COVID-19.

“The science overwhelmingly supports all the changes the CDC is making,” he said Dr. Geraldine Luna, medical director of the Chicago Department of Public Health. “Reports of cases at school are lower and we expect them to continue to be lower as we vaccinate children and send them back to school protected.”

For parents of unvaccinated children wondering if they need to get vaccinated at this stage of the pandemic, allergist and immunologist Dr. Juanita Mora says it’s not only worth it, but it’s safer than ever.

“We have now given millions of vaccines to children and they are safe and effective. As we let our guard down as we get back to normal, let’s protect our children and give them the vaccine so they can have a great school year,” said Dr. Mora. “It not only protects them, but it also protects their grandparents, their community, our country, because children are often vectors of transmission, and this will keep their schools open.”

2022 also brought a new health concern: the outbreak of monkeypox, leaving many parents concerned about the virus reaching schools. Dr. Luna said CDPH is optimistic it won’t become a problem for students.

“We haven’t seen children with monkeypox here in Chicago, and that’s something very promising,” Dr. Luna said. “Vaccines are already being distributed. In Europe, we are starting to see a reduction in these cases, and whatever we see in Europe is later reflected here in the United States. So hopefully the odds of seeing a kid in Chicago with an MPV are less than zero.

Chicago Public Schools’ 2022 COVID protocols don’t include universal masking requirements for students or teachers, but Dr. Mora said there are some circumstances where parents might consider keeping their children masked.

“If someone is very immunocompromised at home, then they might consider masking the child, especially for example a grandparent who is undergoing chemotherapy or radiation for cancer, or some, or a sibling or newborn child also in the home.”

Dr. Luna also urges parents to get their children vaccinated against this year’s flu.

“Flu season is coming very quickly. It is just around the corner in September and is very damaging to children and the elderly, attacking these two extremes of age. So the important thing is to vaccinate your child, consult your doctor and protect them,” said Dr. Luna.

The launch of a COVID vaccine for children under the age of 5 was welcomed by some parents earlier this summer, but vaccination rates for this cohort remain low. Dr. Mora said he urges parents of children under 5 to vaccinate them.

“Especially now, they’re going back into kindergarten, into pre-K, etc. We’ve given millions of vaccines in these age groups, including myself, I’ve given them to children as young as six months old, and they’ve all done well,” said Dr. Mora.

The recent resurgence of polio in New York has alarmed public health officials, and Dr. Luna said the Chicago Department of Public Health continues to monitor water systems here out of an abundance of caution.

“The last case reported in Illinois was in 1970, and it was a person who came from another country where polio is endemic,” Dr. Luna said. “As always we make sure we check our water systems. We’re checking the surveillance systems that we have, which have become much, much better now that we have these vigilance and surveillance systems in place.”

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