Keeping Kids Healthy This School Year

Coinciding with the welcome news that bivalent COVID boosters were approved for children ages five and older, the CDC Foundation and the Vaccine Equity Cooperative hosted a timely webinar on protecting kids, along with parents and school staff, from serious illness in schools. 

A wide range of expert panelists shared the latest health information with community-based organizations (CBOs) and others that have been so key in keeping their cities, towns and neighborhoods up to date on COVID-19 vaccination. 

During the webinar, Sarah Meyer, MD, MPH, chief medical officer of CDC’s Immunization Services Division, reported on just-released CDC guidelines, recommending that everyone six months and older receive a flu shot and all those five and older who’ve completed their primary COVID-19 vaccine series get an updated booster. This updated bivalent shot protects against both the original virus that causes COVID-19 as well as the Omicron variant. 

Mark Del Monte, JD, CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics, emphasized the importance of these vaccines as well, calling them “the single best strategy to protect students and staff from severe disease, hospitalization, and death, and to maintain in-person learning” —which is essential in supporting the physical and emotional health of youngsters. Robert Boyd, MCRP, MDiv, president and CEO of the School-Based Health Alliance, agreed as he reiterated his organization’s main message: Healthy kids learn better.

But the reality the United States is facing, as noted by the CDC Foundation’s Chief Health Equity and Strategy Officer Dr. Lauren Smith, is that 58% of all kids under 18 haven't yet received a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and many of those areas with low vaccination rates are high on the social vulnerability index.  

Dr. Cameron Webb, senior policy advisor for equity on the White House COVID-19 response team, said his group remains focused on the issues of “convenience, confidence and complacency,” ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are readily available in all communities and continuing conversations with hesitant parents through trusted messengers and others. And that’s where CBOs can be of much help —by sharing the latest on how to get the vaccines and why they are essential to keeping kids and others healthy in schools. 

This wide-ranging discussion also stressed the importance of continued mitigation strategies for schools, including good hygiene practices, improving ventilation systems and strengthening in-school health care by recruiting future professionals into the field. Moderator and CDC Foundation Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lisa Waddell reminded everyone that as we head into the holiday season, now is also a great time to make sure all of us, including our children, are fully vaccinated and boosted to best protect ourselves against COVID-19. 

In case you missed any of the webinar, check out the full session below. You can find all the latest information and shareable assets from this session on the Foundation’s CBO resource pages.

 

This blog post is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $68,939,536 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS or the U.S. Government.   



Toni Perling headshot
Toni Perling is a COVID-19 Corps communications officer for the CDC Foundation.