Vaccinated Teenage Campers Can Remove Masks Outdoors, C.D.C. Director Says
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated adolescents would not need to wear masks outdoors at summer camps. Federal regulators are preparing to authorize use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds.
So we have two sets of guidance. We have guidance for masking, and if you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated outdoors, and we also have this camp guidance. Certainly if we have authorization for 12 to 15-year-olds, and they can get vaccinated before going to camp, that’s what I would advocate for so that they can take their masks off outdoors. We also have guidance, the camp guidance and the outdoor guidance for individuals who are unvaccinated. So those who are 12 and under who are attending camp, and we have some availability of not wearing your mask outdoors in small groups, in groups with the other children who are vaccinated. What we’re really trying to avoid in this camp guidance is what we saw in outbreaks in camps last summer. So if you have five, 10-year-olds who are on a soccer field, all in front of the same soccer ball, we’re trying to make sure that they’re not a lot of heavy breathing around a singular soccer ball with five kids around it at the same time. But for spread out activities, our outdoor mass guidance for unvaccinated people — small groups — allows for those kids to be unvaccinated. And what we really are trying to do is ensure that all of these kids can have a really good camp experience and keep the camps open without any outbreaks.
By Sharon LaFraniere
As federal regulators prepare to authorize use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in adolescents aged 12 to 15, a top health official said Wednesday that vaccinated individuals in that age group will be able to remove their masks outdoors at camps.
The remarks by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, came after criticism that the agency’s recently issued guidance for campers was needlessly strict. That guidance had said children at camps should be masked except when eating, drinking, napping or swimming.
The Pfizer vaccine is now authorized only for people 16 or older, and the two other vaccines in use now in the United States are limited to those 18 or older. But federal regulators are expected to expand the Pfizer authorization to include adolescents as soon as this week.
Dr. Walenksy said on Wednesday that the agency’s guidance was intended to prevent a repeat of virus outbreaks last year that were traced to summer camps. She said that unvaccinated, unmasked children who engage in close-contact sports like soccer are at risk of transmitting the virus even when outdoors.
But she said vaccination would mitigate those risks. “If we have authorization for 12- to 15-year-olds, and they can get vaccinated before going to camp, that’s what I would advocate, so they can take their masks off outdoors,” she said.
The C.D.C. said last week that people in the United States who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks outdoors while walking, running, hiking or biking alone, or when in small gatherings with members of their own households. Masks are still necessary in crowded outdoor venues like sports stadiums, the agency said.
If the Food and Drug Administration clears the Pfizer vaccine for broader use, an advisory panel of experts would be expected to meet within a few days to make recommendation to the C.D.C. about whether to go ahead with vaccinating adolescents. The F.D.A. and the C.D.C. have shared responsibility for vaccine use.
White House officials say that the federal government is poised to make shots available for adolescents through pharmacies, pediatricians’ offices and other sites as soon as the health agencies act. “We are prepared to move as quickly as we can after any kind of authorization,” Andy Slavitt, a White House pandemic adviser, said Wednesday.
“We know that kids want to go to camp this summer,” he said. “We know that parents want them to be safe. If they want that done without masks, vaccinations are the best answer.”
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