Millions of American parents are now partially or fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But for millions of children, that prospect is still a long way off.
While many teens aged 16 and over are now able to get vaccinated – and new data from Pfizer suggests its vaccine is safe and highly effective in children as young as 12 – we are probably at months of large groups of children rolling up their sleeves.
“It’s more likely that the majority of children won’t be vaccinated until the end of this year or the beginning of next year,” said Steven Abelowitz, pediatrician at Coastal Kids Pediatrics in Orange County, California. He stressed, however, that even the best guesses are “all speculation” at this point.
This means that parents are in a strange period of months when they suddenly have a lot more protection, but not their children. Here are some basic things to keep in mind as you navigate this new (New new?) normal.
First of all, know that for children, nothing has really changed.
Getting vaccinated yourself may seem quite different, but remember that COVID-19 precautions for children and other unvaccinated people have not changed in recent months, Abelowitz said.
Children should always protect themselves by wearing face masks, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, and washing their hands – basically everything we hear and hopefully have been doing for a year. A slight change: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says 3 feet of physical distance 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 is possesses Some changes have been made to federal recommendations on how children can interact with fully immunized people outside of their homes.
People who have been fully vaccinated can now spend time indoors – and unmasked – with those who haven’t, as long as unvaccinated people (in this case children) are not at high risk. serious complications from COVID-19, according to the CDC.
This means that if your child has a beloved adult in their life who is fully vaccinated, they can spend time together indoors 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 plenty of evidence that fully vaccinated people are unlikely to transmit the disease. virus.)
All of this is probably great news for many grandparents, aunts, uncles, and babysitters – and for the kids who love them.
Their * mathematical * risk of catching COVID-19 is lower.
To be clear: being vaccinated does not directly affect your child’s risk of getting COVID-19 – unless you are breastfeeding, in which case there is growing evidence that breastfeeding parents do in fact transmit antibodies.
So if, for example, your children are exposed to COVID-19 at school or if someone who is infected coughs on your children during a flight for a family vacation, your immunization status does nothing to keep them safe. healthy.
However, when parents or caregivers are vaccinated, it influences – in a more roundabout way – children’s level of risk.
“What we learned from the vast majority of epidemiological studies is that children were infected through their household contacts,” said David Cennimo, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “So if parents are vaccinated, it is highly unlikely that they will bring COVID home.”
“On a total mathematical equation of ‘how far are they protected? “He continued,” they are much more protected now that you have the vaccine. “
However, we are not far from the point where collective immunity would offer them more direct protection.
Want to reduce your child’s risk? Find out about immunization status.
Planning play dates? Thinking of family trips? Are you planning a camp or extracurricular activities? The same basic principles that have guided risk-benefit analyzes so far during the pandemic still apply. The exterior adjustments are less risky than the interior adjustments. Bigger spaces are better than smaller spaces. Being in a small group (or not at all) is safer than being in a large group.
But one thing has changed: You should now be asking people about their immunization status, which can be a tricky conversation to have.
“If I had a child and they were going on a play date, I would like to know: Are the adults in this house vaccinated?” Cennimo said. “Because if they are, the likelihood of there being COVID in that household is so much lower.”
Realize that if this – all of this – seems difficult to sort out, you are not alone. There are no easy answers and parents will continue to have to make decisions that are right for them.
Parents should also feel empowered to weigh the potential benefits of allowing their children to reconnect with friends or just have fun, Cennimo said. All of these should be kept in mind.
“People need to think about their comfort level and, within the guidance provided, really tailor their activity to their comfort level,” he said.