“The children will not be able to be found for another ten days, and not easily”.

From this Sunday, the almost seven million Spanish minors under 14 years of age can go out again after six weeks of confinement. And although the public space has been filled in this time with adults with masks in most cases, the Government has not spoken of the need or the recommendation that children also wear masks on their outings.

Interest in these child-sized masks (adults find them useless) has exploded in recent days with the announcement that infants could go out on the street again, something that, together with a supply that is usually very low, has left out of stock to the few suppliers that had been offering them so far.

“Some will not be able to be found for ten days, although not easily”

“Pediatric masks have practically not had a presence in pharmacies until now, since their use was limited to some children’s hospital units”, explains Carlos Gallinal, general secretary of FEFE (Business Federation of Spanish Pharmacists). “If until two months ago the use of masks was very rare in adults, in children I don’t even tell you. Now there are some production lines in Spain making them recently, I estimate that in about ten days you will be able to find masks for children. Not easily, but some may be found“.

“The children will not be able to be found for another ten days, and not easily”

The only ones that are being able to be located by dropper are the non-homologated ones, there are no stocks of equivalents to FFP2

A Madrid pharmacist has not had it easy at all since she started trying to get hold of them. “I started looking for them and no supplier could supply them, they had been sold out since February; they have offered me some that are not approved, but I have rejected them, the ones they offer me are made of double-layer fabric. Many pharmacies are working together to find something type FFFP2, but nothing comes out. “

“The children will not be able to be found for another ten days, and not easily”

These non-approved masks are mainly those that are being manufactured by volunteers in some local groups, in the same way that it has been done with masks for adults but with a size adapted for infants. One of these groups is Aguja Solidaria, from Camas (Seville), where they have already delivered 60,000 masks for adults and 7,000 for children, the latter with greater production in recent weeks. Marian Gómez, one of their volunteers who attends us by phone in the middle of the delivery task, says that “the demand is being brutal”, although they are not approved, but are delivered for simple individual use.

Those approved and with the highest filtration capacity are those that are completely exhausted, in addition to being manufactured at a much lower rate than those for adults. Meanwhile, the Spanish Association for Standardization, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health among other members, has published a guide to create reusable masks, also for children.

“The children will not be able to be found for another ten days, and not easily”

Arturo Alarcón is manager of Laboratorio Filtros Nosk, the European branch of a Korean company. It has been selling children’s masks since 2014 to a very specific population: affected by asthma, children’s oncology units, patients with pneumonia or cystic fibrosis, and practically no one else. The explosion in demand for these units in recent weeks has meant that the price at which their Asian supplier sells them has multiplied. “Before an order of 60 packages cost me 1,200 euros. Now they ask me 7,800 for exactly the same“.

The low demand that there was until February for masks worldwide was translated into few manufacturers, something that is not helping either to offer sufficient supply or to look for alternatives with prices that have not increased by 650%. The final price for the consumer in normal times was 9.5 euros for a pack of three units of type FFFP2 or N95. “The N95s are those that have the capacity for the virus, and those are serially manufactured, those that are made in workshops sewing with very good intention are something else, they have not passed a filtering control”, says Arturo.

“The children will not be able to be found for another ten days, and not easily”

Nevertheless, Gallinal believes that the use of a mask by children, while adding to protection purposes, can subtract more than it adds in the event of improper handling. “If children touch the mask or put it on and remove it incorrectly, then the risk of contagion can be even greater, since if they do not have their hands washed properly and have an infectious agent on them, they can leave it right in front of their mouth . The important thing is that if they wear a mask, it must be under the strict supervision of a responsible adult. If it is not going to be supervised, it is better that they do not wear a mask. And if we suspect that a child is sick, it is better that they do not go out to the street. This logically applies to the general population, not to those who may have previous pathologies. “

The recommendations are unanimous when it comes to advising against the mask in children under two years of age, for the rest they point out adult supervision as necessary

The general secretary of FEFE explains that there is not enough production capacity in Spain to provide masks to the almost seven million children under 14 years of age, nor to the remaining forty million inhabitants. It depends on an international production that was not prepared for a global demand like the current one. “I call for rationalization and not stockpiling,” says Gallinal.

“The children will not be able to be found for another ten days, and not easily”

María Jesús Montero, spokesperson for the Government of Spain, said that the mask “is not a fully effective protection measure for children, it is difficult for minors to keep it on and not be touching it all the time.” The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) of the United States said instead that it does, that it recommends its use, although not in children under two years of age due to the difficulty referred to by the minister. Meanwhile, a video has gone viral in which a Balearic pharmaceutical company explains how to adapt a surgical mask to the right size for children. In the absence of bread …