Biden says children under 12 likely to have to wear masks at school and vaccines could be approved by autumn

US president Joe Biden participates in a town hall meet at Mount St Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio on 21 July 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
US president Joe Biden participates in a town hall meet at Mount St Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio on 21 July 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

US president Joe Biden on Wednesday said children under 12 years will likely have to wear masks at school and vaccines for them could possibly be approved by autumn.

The US president, while replying about school safety from a concerned parent at a town hall in Cincinnati, Ohio, said the CDC is likely to advise that kids who haven’t been vaccinated against Covid-19 should wear masks when they return from summer holidays to school in the fall.

Mr Biden, speaking at the event organised by CNN News, said the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is “going to say that what you should do is everyone under the age of 12 should probably be wearing masks in school. That’s probably what’s going to happen.”

He, however, said children over the age of 12 who were able to get vaccinated “shouldn’t wear a mask.” He added that children under the age of 12 would be able to get vaccinated “soon.”

“Soon, in the sense that I do not tell any scientists what they should do. I do not interfere. So, they are doing the examinations now, the testing now, and making the decision now,” he was quoted as saying by CNN.

“The expectation — they’re not promising me any specific date — but my expectation talking to the group of scientists we put together... is that sometime, maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning of September, October, they’ll get a final approval saying the (US Food and Drug Administration) said, ‘No, this is it. It’s good.’”

“It’s going to get tight in terms of whether mom or dad are being honest that Johnny did or didn’t get vaccinated,” he added.

Over the last few weeks, there has been a surge in Covid-19 cases in the country with close to 550,000 infections in the last four weeks. Till 15 July, the US has administered over 341 million doses of coronavirus vaccines but in some regions, vaccination efforts are slowing due to scepticism and disinformation.

The requirement of wearing masks to control the spread of the Covid-19 had become a major political issue since the beginning of the pandemic in the country. Former president Donald Trump and other Republicans had pushed back at the advice from health officials who said wearing masks helps stop the spread of the virus.

The CDC recommends that if a child is two years or older, parents should ensure the child wears a mask in public settings and take other actions to protect themselves.

“To set an example, you also might choose to wear a mask. If your child is younger than two years or cannot wear a mask, limit visits with people who are not vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown and keep distance between your child and other people in public,” it said.

The CDC recommendations are, however, not binding and school mask requirements will be decided on a district-by-district basis.

Additional reporting by agencies

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