Nebraska doctor advises on protecting kids from COVID in next school year

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – As the start of the school year approaches, parents are beginning to wonder how to keep their children safe as COVID-19 continues.

Over the past two years, cases and deaths have increased towards the end of summer, moving into respiratory virus season.

Towards the start of the pandemic, children fared better against the virus, with only 2.5% new cases.

But after major variants like delta and omicron, this number has increased. It was 13.7% in a recent week.

Dr. Alice Sato, epidemiologist and assistant professor in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, recommends a layered approach to COVID protection.

“Among the things we recommend are vaccinations and being up to date; wear a high-quality mask; avoid crowded, indoor and poorly ventilated places; and stay aware of the rate of transmission in the community,” Sato said.

She says there are simple, safe vaccines available for children 6 months and older from Pfizer and Moderna. They only contain about 7 or 8 ingredients.

“They contain the mRNA itself, or messenger RNA, they have three types of fats or lipids around them, and then basically salt and sugar,” Sato said.

Sato said she and everyone in pediatrics appreciate the concern of parents who want the best for their children. She says some parents are worried because vaccines are relatively new, while others think the risk from the vaccine is worse than the risk from COVID.

In fact, a COVID infection has been one of the top five causes of death in children for months. It can also lead to emergency room visits or hospitalizations.

“Other doctors I work with have felt confident getting their children or grandchildren vaccinated, even in the youngest age group,” Sato said. “So we really think these are safe and effective vaccines, and we recommend that they be strengthened.”

Most vaccines are given in two doses three or four weeks apart, but for young children the doses are lower. Boosters are also available for children 5 years and older and for immunocompromised children.

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