State Health Officer

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Protect Youngsters from COVID-19 This Summer

Children ages 5-17 represent less than 10 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Alabama. While children are more likely to have asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 infections than adults, they may still spread the virus to others.

Even so, it is possible for children to become severely ill and require hospitalization, intensive care, or be on a ventilator. In Alabama, there have been confirmed cases of a rare COVID-19 syndrome, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which causes inflammation throughout a child’s body. The heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal organs can be infected. Symptoms of MIS-C include fever, rash, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and heart problems.

Currently, children age 2 and older who are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated for COVID-19 are advised to wear masks in public settings, particularly where social distancing is not possible, and when around people who do not live in their household.

No COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children under 12 years old, and vaccinations for younger children are not expected to be available until later in 2021. The good news is that children age 12 to 18 are now eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Once children and adolescents are fully vaccinated — 2 weeks after their second Pfizer dose — they can engage in summer activities without wearing a mask.

In addition to wearing masks, parents can reduce unvaccinated children’s risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 by choosing safer activities. These include exploring the outdoors, taking a road trip with members of their household, or visiting vaccinated friends or family from another household. It is safer to maintain COVID-19 safety protocols and to have children play outside in the open air and where social distancing is easier. Being in crowds and poorly ventilated spaces puts unvaccinated people, including children, at higher risk for COVID-19. Over the summer months, parents should monitor COVID-19 infection rates in their community and will need to make informed choices to safeguard their children.

No activity is totally risk free: children ride bikes, horses, and all-terrain vehicles; swim in oceans, lakes, ponds, and pools; and suffer falls on playground equipment and skateboards, to name a few. Injuries are still the leading preventable cause of death for children and young people. (Child injury prevention tips are available by going to https://www.cdc.gov/safechild/index.html.)

With the threat of infection with COVID-19 facing children and adults for the second straight summer, however, perhaps the most important safety precaution parents and other eligible people can take is to be vaccinated themselves. Safe, effective, and free vaccines are available throughout the state, and the Alabama Department of Public Health encourages you to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as possible. This will help protect people of all ages.

Scott Harris, M.D.
State Health Officer

(June 2021)

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Page last updated: June 2, 2021