Group of kids return to school wearing face masks during the pandemic

COVID-19 Updates: Parents Bring Lawsuit Against D.C. Vaccine Law for Minors, AAP Calls for School Children to Wear Masks in Fall 2021

Group of kids return to school wearing face masks during the pandemic

At least 191 million cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been diagnosed worldwide as of Monday evening, July 19, 2021, including at least 4.09 million deaths. Healthcare officials in the United States have reported at least 34 million positive COVID-19 cases and approximately 608,000 deaths. Source: Johns Hopkins University & Medicine

At least 3.66 billion individual doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide as of Monday evening, including at least 338 million in the United States. Source: GitHub

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Parents bring lawsuit against D.C. vaccine law for minors

Four parents are suing for the right to decide whether or not their minor children can receive a COVID-19 vaccine against a Washington D.C. law that allows children as young as 11 to get vaccinated without parental permission. The law, the Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2020, was passed in October and currently gives children the right, if a doctor determines the child can consent.

According to a report by The Washington Post, the parents are challenging that the law “subverts the right and duty of parents to make informed decisions about whether their children should receive vaccinations” and that the parents fear that if they send their children to public schools, they will be pressured by teachers and peers to seek vaccinations without the parents’ knowledge.

Passed before coronavirus vaccines became available, the vaccine law for minors reportedly was intended to allow teenagers to get immunized against illnesses like the human papillomavirus infection and meningitis.

According to the Post report, the suit asks the court to declare the Act unconstitutional, saying it “creates an entire structure by which the healthcare provider, insurance company, school, and health department all engage in an elaborate and deceitful scheme.”

The text of the law states that “if the minor is capable of meeting the informed consent standard and the vaccination is recommended by the United States Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and provided in accordance with United States Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommended vaccinations schedule, to establish how a minor shall be deemed to meet the informed consent standard, to require the Department of Health to produce age-appropriate alternative vaccine information sheets, and to prohibit an insurer from sending an Explanation of Benefits, to allow a minor access to the minor’s immunization records; and to amend the Student Health Care Act of 1985 to require a physician to submit the immunization record directly to the minor’s school if the parent is utilizing a religious exemption or is opting out.”

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AAP calls for school children to wear masks in fall 2021

In updated guidance for the 2021-22 school year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children older than age 2 wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, in schools this coming fall.

At the same time, the AAP also strongly recommends in-person learning and urges all who are eligible to be vaccinated to protect against COVID-19.

In a statement released on July 19, AAP officials also supported recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that suggest building ventilation, testing, quarantining, cleaning and disinfection in the updated guidance.

“We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers — and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely,” said Sonja O’Leary, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on School Health in a prepared statement.

“The pandemic has taken a heartbreaking toll on children, and it’s not just their education that has suffered, but their mental, emotional, and physical health,” O’Leary said. “Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking, and clean-hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone.”

AAP recommends universal masking because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated. Many schools will not have a system to monitor vaccine status of students, teachers and staff, and some communities overall have low vaccination uptake where the virus may be circulating more prominently.

As of July 7, the AAP and CDC report that 8.5 million children in the United States younger than 18 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Research has shown that opening schools generally does not significantly increase community transmission with masking and other safety measures in place, say AAP officials.

“There are many children and others who cannot be vaccinated,” said Sara Bode, MD, FAAP, chairperson elect of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee. “This is why it’s important to use every tool in our toolkit to safeguard children from COVID-19. Universal masking is one of those tools, and has been proven effective in protecting people against other respiratory diseases, as well. It’s also the most effective strategy to create consistent messages and expectations among students without the added burden of needing to monitor everyone’s vaccination status.”

Other recommendations included in the AAP guidance are:

  • Schools should be prepared to adopt an all-encompassing approach for mental health support.
  • Adequate and timely COVID-19 testing resources must be available and accessible.
  • Strategies should be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission and test positivity rate throughout the community and schools.
  • School policies should be adjusted to align with new information about the pandemic, and administrators should refine approaches when specific policies are not working.
  • School districts must be in close communication and coordinate with state and/or local public health authorities, school nurses, local pediatric practitioners, and other medical experts.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise throughout the U.S.

After a repeated steady drop in coronavirus cases, the numbers are now on the rise throughout the United States. As a more transmissible variant, the Delta variant is expected to continue to cause increased cases in the coming weeks, especially where there has been hesitancy among people to get vaccinated.

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a New Vaccination Equity tab displays a combined county-level view of vaccine coverage and a “Social Vulnerability Index” rating to visualize how each county’s vaccine coverage and estimated vulnerability level intersect.

Total Vaccines Administered at the U.S. level is available on the Daily and Total Trends tab to allow for visualization alongside case, death, testing volume, percent positivity, daily vaccination, and emergency department visits trends.

A New Vaccination and Case Trends tab displays trends in people receiving at least one dose of vaccine and being fully vaccinated, along with trends in cases by age group.

Pandemic contributes to record number of overdose deaths

Close to 100,000 people died from a drug overdose during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the highest number of such deaths ever recorded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Center for Health Statistics.

A report released July 14 details the 93,000 reported deaths, which mark a 29.4% increase from the 72,151 deaths projected for 2019.

Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine also increased in 2020 compared to 2019. Cocaine deaths and deaths from natural and semi-synthetic opioids, such as prescription pain medication, also increased in 2020.

Dr. Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) confirmed that the 93,000 is largest increase in overdose deaths since at least 1999.

The pandemic is at least partly to blame for the higher numbers, according to Volkow, who also urges for the prioritization of making treatment options more widely available to people with substance use disorders.

Learn more about opioids and the role of healthcare professionals in providing compassionate care in our CE course, Management of Addiction, Withdrawal, and Overdose.

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