Can we really say that returning the mask to school is meaningless?

Can we really say that returning the mask to school is meaningless?

Back to school Monday morning for nearly 7 million primary school children… and the return of the muzzle to the face for a large part of them. Schoolchildren with a minimum age of 6 participate in 61 sections, 39 more than before the holiday. The list may increase in the coming weeks as the health situation deteriorates (the minimum infection rate is 50).

But the president of the French Society of Pediatrics, Christelle Grasse-Leguin, said on Wednesday that imposing the mask on children under 12 was “illogical”. We are assessing this topic.

What you may have read or heard

“Children under the age of 12 have a slight problem with covid infection and are not contagious” and “wearing a mask at school for children under 12 is pointless,” said Christelle Grass-le Guen, chief of emergency and general pediatrics at University Hospital. Nantes, said in an interview. Posted in western France.

On the same day, in Ladepeche, the doctor was less clear. She stressed that children “are less contagious than the elderly and that infection is less common,” stressing that “wearing masks at school does not appear to be an urgent or scientifically rational measure.”

Are children contagious?

Undoubtedly, as the World Health Organization points out in black and white in a brochure published at the end of September, children can not only be infected but also “sent” [le virus] To other people.” Children of all ages are susceptible and can transmit SARS-CoV-2. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control adds. This is evident, for example, from different groups identified in primary school.

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Medical biologist Claude-Alexandre Gustave adds: “Even before the emergence of the delta variant, for example, several studies showed that the viral load secreted was the same regardless of age.” One, conducted on a panel of 29,578 positive cases, was published in Wuhan (China) between December 2019 and April 2020. In The Lancet Infectious Diseases January 2021., said Ramanan Laxminarayan, lead author of the study.

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While not all scientific work agrees on this point, some data suggest that children are less contagious than adolescents and adults. An equivalent viral load does not necessarily imply an equivalent risk of transmission, especially because of the level of neutralizing antibodies in the body and symptoms. Children generally have fewer symptomatic forms than adults. They cough and sneeze less and therefore are less able to spread the virus.

“It’s contagious [des enfants] It may be slightly lower than adults, but the viral load is the same and they are actively involved in the spread of the virus. Especially because cases are difficult to detect, because they are often asymptomatic, epidemiologist Mahmoud Zureik summarizes. by LeMonde.

Why is a face mask appropriate in school?

In this context, scientists usually disagree with the president of the French Pediatric Society and believe that wearing a mask for children makes sense.” If at all, epidemiologically and stopping the spread of the virus.

“Yes without hesitation, because the primary method of transmission of infection is the airway through the respiratory system. Wearing a mask will reduce emissions of fine particulates and thus enrich the surrounding air with potentially contaminated aerosols,” explains Claude-Alexandre Gustave. In the absence of masks, the risk is greater if the classroom is not properly ventilated or ventilated.

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Two US studies, prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in late September, go in the same direction. The first group was set up in a thousand schools in Arizona, divided into three groups: those who put the mask on their students and staff at the beginning of the school year, those who did so at some time thereafter, and those who did not. The authors talk about the danger of “staph” 3.5 fois as well as the important school dances that still exist in the world. Note, however, that we are talking about “schools” in the broad sense, including colleges and high schools.

Also, wearing a muzzle is one of the procedures “that are of great importance to minors, and even in the event that they are not vaccinated under the age of 12,” as indicated by the Scientific Council. In an earlier opinion published at the end of August, however, the expert group considered that “it is important that the masks recommended for young children be the subject of evaluation and follow-up to assess the potential impact on learning compared to the poorly evaluated potential benefits in exercise.”

What about vaccination?

Christelle Grass-le Guen – who did not respond to our request on Sunday – also said “there is no urgent need to vaccinate people under the age of 12”. The European Medicines Agency is expected to announce in December whether it approves the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years. As the US authorities just did.

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As head of the vaccine strategy steering board, Alain Fischer told France Info that France “can wait a little longer”. In particular, it is time to evaluate potential side effects in the United States. But also because children are less likely to get serious diseases. Only 40 of the 6,667 patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 who are currently in hospital are under the age of 10.

But this does not take into account the risk of symptoms over time (“long Covid”). According to a study published August 3 in The Lancet for Children and Adolescents, 3.1% of children ages 5 to 11 still report at least one symptom after 28 days.

sum up

  • Children can catch the virus, although they are less likely to get seriously infected with Covid-19.
  • If children become infected, they can of course transmit the virus (but perhaps less so than adults).
  • Wearing a mask for children reduces the risk of contamination, but can also affect classroom attendance and learning.

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