WASHINGTON — A group of prominent doctors and educators has called on the Biden administration to lift pandemic-related measures that could cause children to miss school and other activities.
“We strongly urge you to revise the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines regarding testing, isolation, and vaccine recommendations for children to ensure that public health policies do not do more harm than good. “says a letter sent by Urgency of Normal – a group that has advocated for a regular return to pre-pandemic behaviors – to Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the White House Pandemic Response Team, and Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The CDC’s COVID-19 school guidelines continue to significantly disrupt education for children and working parents, while providing no demonstrable public health benefit by limiting the spread of COVID-19. These policies have serious unintended consequences,” states the letter Urgence de Normal.
The group is led by doctors, including Lucy McBride, a physician in Washington, DC, and Vinay Prasad, an oncologist at the University of California, San Francisco. His efforts were criticized by some progressives, but Return to Normal leaders strenuously argued that they had no political agenda.
“We call for an end to vaccine and testing policies that exclude children from normal life,” Dr. McBride told Yahoo News in a text message. “Our goal is to help restore confidence in the human immune system, our amazing COVID vaccines, and public health.”
Tuesday’s letter asks the CDC to scrap mass testing of children in places like schools and camps in favor of a test-to-treat approach that seeks to identify children who may be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and ensure that, if these children become ill, they are promptly treated with effective therapies that have become available in recent months.
Return to Normal also argues that the CDC should remove its vaccination recommendation in hopes that a more neutral federal guidance would cause vaccination mandates to drop.
“CDC recommendations to vaccinate and stimulate healthy young individuals,” the letter states, “have led many schools, colleges, sports organizations and summer programs to require up to three doses of mRNA vaccine, whatever regardless of previous infection. These requirements exclude unvaccinated children or those who do not receive meaningful opportunities.
However, most doctors advocate vaccination of children. “The vaccine is safe, effective and the best way to keep our youngest children healthy and safe. We encourage parents around the world to take action to get their children vaccinated and protected as soon as possible,” Dr. Thomas Veverka of the Michigan State Medical Society said Thursday.
Neither the CDC nor the White House responded to a Yahoo News request for comment.
The letter was sent the same day the White House announced a push to inoculate children under age 5, following regulatory approval of the vaccine for this younger cohort.
In February, three-quarters of all American children had the coronavirus at least once, before successive waves of Omicron variants further boosted immunity – although the duration of immunity acquired by infection does not be unclear, especially with the coronavirus continuing to evolve.
The school year began with mandatory masks in schools in many Democratic-controlled parts of the country, but those mandates disappeared in the spring of 2022. Masking critics celebrated when, earlier this month, the city of New York has ended a masking requirement for children between the ages of 2 and 4 in daycare and preschool.
Most children do not become seriously ill from the coronavirus, but proponents of safety measures point out that they can transmit the pathogen to other family members. And there are millions of children who have serious immune problems that make them more susceptible to coronavirus. Their parents fear that the rush to get back to normal poses an undue risk.
“I know everyone is fed up,” wrote Sarah Wildman, whose teenage daughter underwent cancer treatment as mask mandates and other restrictions eased through the spring. “I wonder if it’s unfair for me to insist that others care. I am a special request. I am a problem. I like the rules. The more the world opens up, the more I feel cornered. I don’t want us to go back to isolation.
Some also worry about the effects of long COVID, a poorly understood condition with a variety of possible symptoms.
Still, much of society appears to be moving forward, as Tuesday’s letter encourages. “The emergency phase of COVID-19 is over,” he says. “We call on the CDC to update current guidelines to reflect the era of endemic management in which COVID-19 infections are treated the same as other seasonal respiratory viruses, which do not require routine testing. or isolation.”