Mask mandates for children in Spain weren't linked to a lower rate of COVID-19 cases or transmission, researchers found.
Children 6 and older in Catalonia, a region in Spain, were required to wear masks once school reopened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The retrospective study identified a much lower case rate in preschool, where there were no mandates when compared to older groups who were required to wear masks.
Five-year-olds, for instance, had an incidence of 3.1 percent, while 6-year-olds had an incidence of 3.5 percent.
"The study shows that there was not a significant decrease in transmission on the courses that were masked (6 to 11 y.o.) when comparing to those that were not (3 to 5)," Clara Prats, one of the authors, told The Epoch Times in an email.
The data analyzed came from Sept. 13, 2021, to Dec. 22, 2021.
Researchers believe that "age-dependency" was the most important factor for the risk of virus transmission in schools. In other words, the older a child gets, the more likely they are to have an adult-like immune response. Adults are more likely than children to contract symptomatic cases of COVID-19, according to previous research. The Spanish researchers also said that because young children are likely to get infected with other coronaviruses, they would have more cross-reactive T cells, a type of cell that protects against COVID-19.
"Age-gradient in SARS-CoV-2 transmission is the key to understanding these results, and this is mainly related to the strong/robust innate immune response at mucosa resp[iratory] cells that younger children have when compared to older kids or adults," Antoni Soriano-Arandes, another of the authors, told The Epoch Times in an email.
The study adds to a body of research that shows mixed results for masks and mask mandates.
Limitations of the research, which was funded by the Spanish government and other institutions, include not being able to count all asymptomatic cases, which are more likely among younger children.
"This is one more study that fails to provide good evidence that masks substantially reduce transmission, and that suggests that if they do reduce transmission, they don't reduce it by very much," Darrow told The Epoch Times in an email. "Of course, it is always possible that in some other context masks might work better (e.g., better masks, better compliance, less facial touching, more frequent replacement of masks, etc)."