2022

COVID-19: Advice for parents on navigating back-to-school


Dr. Shira Shafir, associate professor of epidemiology and community health sciences, addresses concerns about the start of the new school year.

Mother and daughter in front of COVID-19 virus

With COVID-19 still very much present, Dr. Shira Shafir, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health associate professor of epidemiology and community health sciences, describes the start of the new school year in simple terms: “I think back-to-school is going to be a little funky.”

That description stems from her vast experience in epidemiology as well as being the mother of a boy who just turned 4.

An associate professor of epidemiology and community health sciences at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Shafir has been tracking and studying how COVID-19 and its variants operate in the community since the start of the pandemic.

More than two years later, she says there are still enough unknowns to keep parents in a state of doubt.

“We know if kids are vaccinated, they’re protected from severe disease, which is very reassuring from a parent – and from a scientific – perspective,” Shafir said. “But everybody, including kids, can still get infected.”

It actually was easier for parents, she said, when schools were conducting regular COVID-19 tests and requiring students to wear masks. With those regulations no longer in place, the level of comfort in sending a child off to school – with variants such as omicron cropping up – may drop.

Advice for parents

In preparation for the new school year, Shafir advises parents to approach the COVID-19 safety question differently depending on the age of their child. That’s especially true now that vaccinations are available for the youngest of school-age children.

“For parents of children kindergarten and younger – vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate immediately,” she said. “We know that with the Moderna vaccine, kids will reach immunity quicker. With Pfizer, it’s a much longer timeframe ... in the interest of full disclosure, my child was in the Pfizer clinical trial, but I have nieces and nephews and told their parents to get Moderna.”

The Moderna vaccine regimen for children ages 6 months to 5 years is two doses administered a month apart. The Pfizer vaccine is three doses, with the first two doses given three weeks apart and the third dose eight weeks later. A child is considered fully immunized two weeks after the final dose of either vaccine regimen.

For parents of children who are older than 5, it’s time to get them boosted, Shafir said. And be prepared to get another booster later in the year, currently in development to better protect against the newest variants.

“There will be an omicron-specific booster against what is currently circulating, keeping them from getting infected – not just keeping them from severe disease,” she said.

Shafir advises parents of all school-age children that while mask mandates in schools might have been dropped, it’s still a good practice to wear a mask in the classroom. At this stage, she said, it’s important to normalize mask-wearing.

“Have that conversation. Why do we wear masks? Why is it important? It’s to protect people from germs,” she said. “One of the things I’ve noticed is kids from 2 up to those graduating from high school – they just don’t seem to care very much about having to wear a mask. They’re not saying, ‘This is ruining my life.’”

A sense of community

Shafir says she’s fortunate that her son has been with the same cohort for a while. They dispersed for a period during the summer, so she and other parents at her son’s preschool agreed, as a class community, to have their children tested for COVID-19 before returning to school.

“We’re really trying to develop a sense of community within the classroom, working with a room parent, with the administration,” she said.

One other key piece of guidance Shafir gives to all parents, regardless of age: If at all possible, have a plan in case your child gets sick.

“We can’t send our kids to school sick,” she said. “We send them to school to be educated and safe during the day. They can’t go to school sick – because that’s how other kids get sick.”

by Leo Smith

Faculty Referenced by this Article

Dr. Shira Shafir
Shira Shafir
Community Health Sciences Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Otoniel Martinez-Maza
Otoniel Martinez-Maza
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Michael Prelip
Michael Prelip
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Judith M. Siegel
Judith M. Siegel
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Nicole Hoff
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Peter R. Kerndt
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Teresa Ellen Seeman
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Dvora Joseph Davey
Dvora Joseph Davey

Dr. Joseph Davey is an infectious disease epidemiologist with over 20 years' experience leading research on HIV/STI services for women and children.

Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Anne Coleman
Anne Coleman
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Emily Beeler
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
David Eisenman
David Eisenman
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Paula Tavrow
Paula Tavrow
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Cathy Lang
Cathy Lang

Assistant Dean for Research & Adjunct Associate Professor of Community Health Sciences

Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Su Yong Jung
Su Yon Jung
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang
Zuo-Feng Zhang
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Chandra Ford
Chandra Ford
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Valentine M. Villa
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Paul Simon Headshot
Paul Simon
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Dallas Swendeman
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Ilan H. Meyer
Ilan H. Meyer
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Diana Bonta
Diana Bonta
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Onyebuchi Arah headshot
Onyebuchi A. Arah
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dena Herman
Dena Herman
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Pamina Gorbach
Pamina Gorbach
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Charlotte Neumann
Charlotte G. Neumann
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Marjorie Kagawa-Singer
Marjorie Kagawa-Singer
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Kimberley Shoaf
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Marjan Javanbakht
Marjan Javanbakht
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
sheena sullivan photo
Sheena G. Sullivan
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Wendelin Slusser
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Naomi Greene
Naomi Greene
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. May Sudhinaraset
May Sudhinaraset
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez
Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Ondine S. von Ehrenstein
Community Health Sciences Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Bo-Kyung Elizabeth Kim headshot.png
Bo-Kyung Elizabeth Kim
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Robert Kim-Farley
Robert J. Kim-Farley

Robert J. Kim-Farley, MD, MPH, is a Professor-in-Residence with joint appointments in the Departments of Epidemiology and Community Health Sciences

Community Health Sciences Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh
Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Hashibe, Mia
Mia Hashibe
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Jørn Olsen
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dana Hunnes
Dana Hunnes
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Sung-Jae Lee
Sung-Jae Lee
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Catherine Carpenter
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Bailley, Julia
Julia Bailey
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Randall Kuhn
Randall Kuhn
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
DerSarkissian, Maral
Maral DerSarkissian
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Marissa J. Seamans
Marissa Seamans
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Headshot
Christie Jeon
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Elizabeth D'Amico
Elizabeth D’Amico
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Paul Dluzniewski
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Beate Ritz
Beate Ritz
Environmental Health Sciences Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Frank J. Sorvillo
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Jennifer A. Wagman
Jennifer A. Wagman
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Vonthanak Saphonn
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Sarah Blenner
Sarah Blenner

Director of Field Studies and Applied Professional Training

Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Peter Katona
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Jonathan Jacobs
Jonathan Jacobs
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Paul Hsu
Paul Hsu
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Nathan Wong
Nathan D. Wong
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Courtney Thomas Tobin headshot.png
Courtney S. Thomas Tobin
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Jian Yu Rao
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
James Macinko
James Macinko

Professor of Community Health Sciences & Health Policy and Management, and Associate Dean for Research

Community Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Michael Goldstein
Michael Goldstein
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Elizabeth Rose Mayeda photo
Elizabeth Rose Mayeda
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Sheba George
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Dana Rose Garfin
Dana Rose Garfin
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Tony Kuo
Tony Kuo
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Sean Darling-Hammond
Sean Darling-Hammond
Biostatistics Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Kimberly Gregory
Kimberly Gregory
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Gilbert Gee
Gilbert C. Gee
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Liwei Chen
Liwei Chen

Professor in Epidemiology

Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Elizabeth Yzquierdo
Elizabeth Yzquierdo
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Julia Heck
Julia Heck
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Susan Cochran
Susan Cochran
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Woman dressed in blue and wearing pearls and eye glasses
Lisa V. Smith
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Michael Rodriguez
Michael Rodriguez
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Annette Regan
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Akihiro Nishi Headshot
Akihiro Nishi
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
May Wang headshot
May C. Wang
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Noel Weiss
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Ximena Vergara
Ximena Vergara
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Jian Li
Jian Li
Environmental Health Sciences Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Alexandra Binder Headshot
Alexandra Binder
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Jody Heymann
Jody Heymann
Epidemiology Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Jessica Gipson
Jessica Gipson
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Dawn Upchurch
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
glik, deborah
Deborah Glik
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Philip Massey headshot
Philip Massey
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Samuel Stratton
Samuel Stratton
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Aziz, Najib headshot_2023
Najib Aziz
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Timothy Brewer
Timothy Brewer
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Amy Wohl
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Donald Morisky
Donald E. Morisky
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Matthew Mimiaga
Matthew J. Mimiaga
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Sander Greenland
Sander Greenland
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Virginia C. Li
Virginia C. Li
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Natalie Muth
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Karin Michels
Karin B. Michels
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Anne Pebley
Anne Pebley
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Ralph R. Frerichs, 12/25/21
Ralph R. Frerichs
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Roch Nianogo
Roch A. Nianogo
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Nina Harawa
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Roberta Malmgren
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Niklas Krause
Environmental Health Sciences Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Haroutune Armenian
Haroutune Armenian
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Leeka I. Kheifets
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Kelika Konda
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Roger Detels
Roger Detels
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
halbert, ronald
Ronald Halbert
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Brian Bradbury
Brian Bradbury
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Alina Dorian
Alina Dorian
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Anne Rimoin
Anne Rimoin
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Lawrence Ash
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile

Related Content

July 15, 2022
"Most of U.S. population now in areas with high levels of COVID-19 subvariant BA.5"

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Dr. Shira Shafir, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health associate professor, about the current COVID-19 surge of subvariant BA.5 in the United States.

Source: The Wall Street Journal Read Full Article
tents
December 14, 2023
"Homeless camp sweeps result in police citations as often as housing offers, survey finds"

In an interview for The Los Angeles Times, Dr. Randall Kuhn, UCLA professor of community health sciences, states that police were more likely than outreach workers to be the initial contact for unsheltered homeless people.

Source: Los Angeles Times Read Full Article