'Immune cocoon' and other strategies for safe school days

With the delta variant driving up new COVID-19 cases around the country, two topics at the forefront are the return-to-school season and the outlook for booster shots.

This week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a vaccination requirement for all teachers, faculty and professionals in K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and most childcare settings as a condition of employment.

Dr. Seth Cohen, medical director of infection prevention at UW Medical Center and a father of two, says parents should continue to take the inititiative to keep their children healthy.

“If a child has a runny nose or a fever or a new cough, immediately we should think, ‘OK, this child should probably get tested and avoid going to school that day,’” Cohen said.

“The strategy is to form an immune cocoon around them to really make sure that everybody around these children are vaccinated.”

In parallel, President Biden announced plans for a third dose to be made available to fully vaccinated Americans this fall. Cohen cautions that the best path forward against current variants like delta and others yet to emerge is to increase the total number of vaccinated people globally.

“This feels a little bit like a Band-Aid, where it's probably good for some individuals, but on a public-health level, it's going to make a much bigger difference if we can get first shots into people who have never received the vaccine before,” he said.

Meantime, fully vaccinated people with compromised immune systems can receive a third vaccine shot from UW Medicine beginning this weekend.

UW Medicine