In Italy, the knots on the reopening of the school year began to tighten as soon as the school year ended; encumbered as it was by occasional closures of classrooms, distance learning, overcrowded public transport, and fears of contagion. Education Minister Patrizio Bianchi continues to insist, “the goal is to return to regular attendance.” To achieve this, the government aims to conduct a mass vaccination of teachers. And some are also promoting the vaccination of students–even very young ones–despite the words of caution coming from a number of experts.
The CTS guidance
Meanwhile, while waiting for the Ministry of Education’s School Plan, the Technical and Scientific Committee (Comitato tecnico-scientifico, CTS) has issued a set of instructions as guidance for the September re-opening of schools. The Committee members have confirmed what was laid down in the protocol for the school year that has just ended: compulsory distancing and masks. Hardly anyone now seems to object to this last point. Masks worn by children for several hours at a time are now perceived as harmless. The opposition by some doctors and even the clarifications of the CTS itself on the basis of instructions of the World Health Organization (WHO) seem to be of little interest to the public.
A German study
Yet from a health point of view, the issue should be far from closed. On June 30, a German study on the levels of carbon dioxide inhaled by children when wearing masks indoors was published in the prestigious scientific journal JAMA Pediatrics. The study involved 45 children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17. The averages of carbon dioxide detected were high from the first minutes after the children covered their noses and mouths. The lowest value of carbon dioxide detected in a child was three times higher than the limit of 0.2% indicated by the German health authorities.
The study in question involved a very small sample of children, which is why it should be taken with a grain of salt. However, a German survey from last autumn involving 25,930 people revealed that 67.7% of parents reported adverse effects in their young children as a consequence of wearing masks. Is this poll a definitive proof that masks are harmful? No. Both cited publications have gaps. The most recent study has the limitation of covering too small a sample, and the paper from a few months ago has the limitation of being based on a mere survey.
In any case, their one-way results against wearing masks on toddlers should suggest additional analysis and public debate. These are the two aspects that are lacking. Deepak Srivastava himself, president of the Gadstone Institute of Biomedical Research and a pediatric cardiologist, while being very skeptical about the German study and believing that the cost-benefit analysis favors the use of masks among children, still feels that “further exploration” on the subject is needed.