Students as young as 5 years old may still need to wear masks in school after the COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children ages 5-11, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said in a White House briefing Wednesday. Walensky did not discuss if or when children would not be required to wear masks in school.

“After we have authorization from [the Food and Drug Administration] and recommendations from the CDC, we will be working to scale up pediatric vaccination. That said, it will take some time … as we head into these winter months, we know we cannot be complacent,” Walensky stated.

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The Biden administration released a plan Wednesday to vaccinate 28 million children ages 5 to 11, with vaccine doses ready to distribute upon the necessary approval.

“We also know that from previous data that schools that have had masks in place were three-and-a-half times less likely to have school outbreaks requiring school closure,” Walensky continued. “So, right now, we are going to continue to recommend masks in all schools for all people in those schools and we will look forward to scaling out pediatric vaccination during this period of time.”

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo said Wednesday that the data does not support any clinical benefit to forcing mask mandates upon children in a school setting. One hundred and thirty-five of the 28 million Americans ages 5-11 have died of COVID-19 during the past 19 months.

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