Pediatrician weighs in on possible return to in-person learning

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A local pediatrician weighed in on the conversation surrounding the possible return to in-person learning in New Mexico before educators are vaccinated.

Dr. Melissa Mason, a pediatrician and a member of the New Mexico Pediatric Society, is seeing a concerning trend.

“Not only have I personally been seeing increased rates of depression, anxiety, obesity — but even decreased immunization rates. This is among all my providers in my practice. This is among pediatricians throughout the state of New Mexico, as well as the United States,” she said.

She pointed out a lack of counseling and therapies as the main reasons that could lead to students falling behind.

“Right now, I think the hybrid model is a good first step to start to safely reintroduce kids back to campus to make sure that schools are prepared to have people in person and to work out any kinks that they may come against before they have the entire student body back on their campus,” she said.

However, there is one problem. Teachers and staff are still not on the immediate priority list to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It needs to be recognized that teachers and school staff are essential workers. They are vastly important to helping keep our kids educated and healthy and well. So they really need to be a priority in receiving the COVID vaccine as soon as possible,” said Dr. Mason.

She added that national and international studies have shown transmission of the virus is more likely to occur from staff member to other staff and teachers and not from kids. Dr. Mason explained the higher rates of infection coincided with higher rates of community spread.

Dr. Mason wonders if those rates will look better if educators are vaccinated.