AAP Renews Emphasis on Protecting Children with Special Health Care Needs

Posted on December 12, 2022

The American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes that children and youth with special health care needs have unique considerations that should be prioritized within updated guidance, “Caring for Children and Youth With Special Health Care Needs During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” published Tuesday, Dec. 6. This includes reducing community transmission, individual protection against disease, and access to educational and health care services. At a time when children are being hospitalized at an alarming rate due to a surge of illnesses nationwide, the guidance observes that children with special health care needs are especially vulnerable. These children are more likely to experience significant disruption to their daily lives as a result of the COVID pandemic, with consequences that may include delayed development, reduced learning, and mental health challenges. Children with special health care needs are more likely to be diagnosed with severe disease and be hospitalized, and long-term effects of COVID-19 infection may be significant, regardless of the initial disease severity. Interruptions to education and therapy disproportionately affect children who are younger, children and teens with medical complexity, and those with behavioral health conditions. The AAP urges everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19, and calls for children and youth with special health care needs to use face masks in areas where the transmission rate is at a medium to high level. Close contacts, including health care providers, of children and youth with special health care needs also should consider wearing masks. In addition, inequities attributable to poverty, racism, immigration status, ableism, health conditions, geography, health care access, educational access, child care access and other factors make disruptions to their daily lives particularly dangerous.