Everyone wants to find a way to keep children in school, but it must be done safely and responsibly, Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said on Tuesday.
“Nobody has suffered, I think, the social isolation from not being in school more than children,” Offit told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “For many, it’s the only decent meal they get during the day, and ‘distance learning’ is in many ways a contradiction in terms. I think we want kids to be in school. But if we want them to be in school, then we have to do everything we can to keep them in school.”
Offit acknowledged that many Americans are still having problems finding Covid-19 tests.
“I think what we have to do is make use of the fact or understand the fact that we just don’t have testing that’s available. So the best thing to do then, if a child obviously has Covid, they should stay home until they’re completely asymptomatic and then come back to school with masks. And for anybody who’s been exposed, they need to mask for 10 days. With masking and social distancing and vaccination, I think we can really get on top of it,” he said.
“If the teachers have to be vaccinated, the bus drivers have to be vaccinated and the children over 5 should be vaccinated, and then we can have the thing we all want, the precious thing we all want, which is to have our children back in school. But we should do it in a responsible way,” he added.
Offit also emphasized the importance of vaccines for kids, noting that although the coronavirus tends to affect children less severely than adults, it can still be dangerous. “About 1,000 children less than 18 years of age have died from this infection. We have vaccines in place for diseases that cause far fewer deaths than that,” he said.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,045 children under 18 have died from Covid-19.
It’s especially hard to watch children struggle with Covid-19 now that kids over 5 are eligible to be vaccinated, he said.
“You’re watching these parents suffer the fact that their children are brought up to the ICU, sedated, put on a ventilator, and you’re watching the parents cry, and you’re thinking, ‘this was all preventable. You could have vaccinated your child; you could have vaccinated yourself,’ and it’s just really heartbreaking. This was heartbreaking enough before we had a vaccine. Now that you have a vaccine to prevent all of this, it’s doubly heartbreaking,” he told CNN.