LOS ANGELES — As summer vacation draws to a close, health officials are urging parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19, with some warning that the start of the school year could bring an increase in cases.
Infections and hospitalizations are declining after a prolonged summer wave, but that progress could be challenged as schools reopen.
This will be the first time during the pandemic that the traditional school year will begin in California without a statewide school mask mandate in place, and vaccination rates — though robust for the general public — are low among children.
While COVID-19 deaths are rarer among youth than among adults, they do happen. Los Angeles County on Friday reported its 12th COVID-19 death in a person under age 18.
“COVID-19 is here to stay, but we have learned methods and gained tools to decrease its impact on our health and wellbeing,” the state Department of Public Health wrote in its latest guidance for schools. “California’s schools can manage this disease in sustainable and adaptive manners.”
Among the strategies state health officials recommend are ensuring that students and staff stay up to date on vaccinations, improving indoor air quality, promoting good hand hygiene and supporting access to testing.
“Not only do vaccinations provide individual-level protection, but high vaccination coverage reduces the burden of disease in schools and communities and may help protect individuals who are not vaccinated or those who may not develop a strong immune response from vaccination,” the guidance states.
About 41% of 5- to 11-year-olds in California have received at least one vaccine dose, according to data compiled by the L.A. Times.
The figure is roughly the same for both Los Angeles and Orange counties. By comparison, among 12- to 17-year-olds, 87% in L.A. County have received a dose, while 74% have in Orange.
Vaccination rates are higher in the San Francisco Bay Area. In San Francisco, 83% of 5- to 11-year-olds have had at least one dose, as have more than 90% of 12- to 17-year-olds.