(WSYM) — Across the country, we are continuing to see low COVID-19 vaccination rates in children who are eligible.
It comes just weeks before school is set to start, as the vaccine is eligible to kids 12 and up. Many school districts are adding new safety measures as we approach the start of the year.
There are many concerns for parents as students get ready to head back to the classroom. As school districts finalize their plans, one local pediatrician says there are some additional safety measures school leaders and parents can make to keep children safe.
“For those students 12 and above, my wish would be that everybody would be vaccinated before they return to school," Novi Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Matthews sid.
According to the state's COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, almost 28% of children 12-15 and 38% of kids 16-19 are fully vaccinated.
Right now, mask-wearing is just a recommendation and not a requirement by the state health department.
“When they say it’s a recommendation, that gives parents the impression that they can make a decision or choice," Matthews said. "If it's really that important, the Health Department should identify that it is a mandatory thing.”
Dr. Molly O'Shea with Birmingham Pediatrics agrees with that sentiment.
“I really do think wearing a mask makes sense until a vaccine is widely available and accepted by families," she said.
In other districts, like Dearborn, it's a requirement when entering a building.
“This has been in place since last year and we are looking at whether or not we will change that practice starting in late August when staff return to the buildings," the district said in a statement to 7 Action News.
Universal mask-wearing will be a requirement for everyone, vaccinated or not, in Detroit school buildings and buses.
Lennetter Williams' 8-year-old granddaughter is heading to the second grade. She has so many questions with the current spread of the delta variant.
“What if she is in that small percentage that dies and you won’t know until it happens?" Williams asked.
She said she's open to weekly COVID-19 testing if people aren't vaccinated. It's something schools across the country are starting to do.
"Even though delta is much more contagious, I don’t know that we need to do testing if we have mask-wearing in place," O'Shea said. “Testing is onerous, it is uncomfortable. It is not a pleasant experience.”
Matthews said he doesn't have plans to test his students or staff
“Last year we had mandatory testing of our students athletes and we gave several thousand tests over the course of the spring season and we had less than 1% of those tests come back positive," he said.
The Detroit school board just approved their reopening plan that requires weekly COVID-19 testing for all employees and students who completed their consent form, regardless of if they have their vaccine.
“I think the adults need to be more responsible for the children who can’t get vaccinated," Williams said.
O'Shea said while school leaders have challenging decisions to make in the coming weeks, parents can also do their part.
“Let their kids understand that if they get COVID, they will be fine," she said. "But we want to make sure we reduce the chances that you get it by wearing your mask so keep it on.”