SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – With back to school looming, parents and school administrators have their work cut out for them as they prepare for another year amid the BA.5 subvariant.
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Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, Professor of Health and Infectious Diseases, Pediatrics, and Epidemiology and Population Health at Stanford, told KCBS Radio's "Ask An Expert" one of the most important precautions against COVID-19 is to get vaccinated, but warned that vaccination rates in children are disappointingly low.
"Vaccination is still really important, it's the best way to keep people from getting really sick and being hospitalized. We know that vaccinations probably won't protect against all infections, but it is really making a difference in keeping people out of the hospital, including children," Maldonado said.
One major change from the end of the school year in May is the authorization of vaccinations for children 5 years old and younger. However, a majority of children across the United States are still unvaccinated.
"That's a real concern," Maldonado said. "We saw that about two thirds of children over 12 were getting vaccinated, but only 20-30% of children five to 11 were getting vaccinated and at this point, for children under five, the vaccination numbers are far less than 5%."
This may be because of the belief that children are at a low risk for severe illness. "It is true that they are less at risk than adults, but we are still seeing children on a regular basis being admitted to the hospital," Maldonado warned.
On Wednesday, the Stanford health expert saw a six-month-old baby admitted to the hospital for a COVID-19 infection and earlier this week she saw a baby under a month old with coronavirus symptoms.
Besides getting vaccinated, Maldonado gave a few helpful tips for teachers to combat COVID-19 in the classroom.
"Keeping the classrooms clean and making sure they are cleaning them on a regular basis, really good ventilation is critical and some schools may continue to use masks," she said.
Maldonado said she doesn't think mask mandates will be reinstated in the fall, but encouraged those who feel comfortable to continue wearing them.