Millions of American parents are now fully or partially vaccinated against COVID-19. But that prospect is still a long way off for millions of children.
While many teens 16 and older can now get vaccinated – and new data from Pfizer suggests the vaccine is safe and highly effective in children as young as 12 years old – we are probably months away from large groups of kids rolling up their sleeves stabbing.
“It is more likely that the majority of children will not be vaccinated until late this year or early next year,” said Steven Abelowitz, a pediatrician at Coastal Kids Pediatrics in Orange County, California. However, he stressed that even the best guesses right now are “all speculation”.
This means that parents are facing a strange period of months in which they suddenly have a lot more protection, but their children do not. Here are some basics to keep in mind as you go through that new (new new?) normal.
First, know that nothing has really changed for children.
It may feel very different to get self-vaccinated, but keep in mind that COVID-19 precautions for children and other unvaccinated people haven’t changed in recent months, Abelowitz said.
Kids still need to protect themselves by wearing face masks, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor areas, and washing their hands – basically everything we’ve heard and hopefully done over the past year. A small change: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now say that a physical distance of 1 meter is enough to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in schools.
But spending time indoors with vaccinated family members is now safe.
An area where there has The only change is the federal recommendations on how children can deal with fully vaccinated people outside of their household.
People who are fully vaccinated can now spend time indoors – and unmasked – with those who haven’t, as long as the unvaccinated individuals (in this case, children) are not at high risk for serious COVID-19 complications, according to the report. CDC.
That means if your child has a beloved adult in their life who has been fully vaccinated, he or she can hang out indoors together without you having to worry about them contracting the virus. (Of course, no one can say there is no risk, but the risk is low, especially now that the CDC says there is ample evidence that fully vaccinated people are unlikely to transmit the virus.)
All of this is probably very welcome news to many grandparents, aunts and uncles and babysitters – and the kids who love them.
Their * mathematical * risk of getting COVID-19 is lower.
To be clear: you will not be vaccinated straight away affect your child’s own risk of getting COVID-19 – unless you happen to be breastfeeding, in which case there is growing evidence that breastfeeding parents are indeed passing on antibodies.
So, for example, if your kids are exposed to COVID-19 at school or someone who has an infected cough on your kids on a flight to a family vacation, your vaccination status will do nothing to keep them healthy.
That said, when parents or caregivers are vaccinated, it affects – in a more roundabout way – the children’s risk level.
“What we’ve learned from the vast majority of epidemiological studies is that children became infected through their family contacts,” said David Cennimo, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “So if parents are vaccinated, they are highly unlikely to take COVID home.”
“On a total mathematical equation of ‘how protected are they?'” He continued, “they are much better protected now that you have the vaccine.”
However, we’re nowhere near the point where herd immunity would give them more direct protection.
Do you want to reduce your child’s risk? Ask about vaccination status.
Schedule performance dates? Are you thinking of family outings? Are you considering camp or extracurricular activities? The same basic principles that led to benefit-risk assessments so far during the pandemic still apply. Outdoor setups are less risky than indoor setups. Larger spaces are better than smaller spaces. Being in a small group (or no group at all) is safer than in a large one.
But one thing has changed: now you should definitely ask people about their vaccination status, which can be a tricky conversation.
“If I had a kid and they went to a play date, I would like to know, Have the adults in that household been vaccinated?” Cennimo said. “Because if that’s the case, the chance that there is COVID in that household is so much smaller.”
Know that if this – whatever – feels difficult, you’re not alone. There are no easy answers, and parents will have to keep making decisions that feel right for them.
Parents should also feel empowered to weigh the potential benefits of having their kids reconnect with friends or just have fun, Cennimo said. These are all considerations to keep in mind.
“People need to think about their comfort levels and, within the guidance given, really titrate their activity to their comfort level,” he said.