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When the CDC announced Thursday that fully vaccinated people can safely remove their masks in most settings, one group that didn’t necessarily breathe a sigh of relief were parents of young children.
Some Noted that the new CDC guidelines contain no specific advice for vaccinated parents with unvaccinated children in their homes.
So we took a look at the current guidelines for kids and parents, and spoke with infection prevention expert Dr Emily Landon about the risks – and how her family is dealing with this complicated issue.
What are the risks of COVID-19 for children?
While children and teens infected with the coronavirus tend to have milder cases of COVID-19, they can get sick and pass the virus on to others. And some children have developed serious complications from the disease, including a rare but serious medical condition associated with COVID-19 called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).
There are also growing concerns about the lingering and long-term effects of the viral infection – such as fatigue, breathing problems and stomach problems – for some children who contract COVID-19.
So what are the mask guidelines for teens 12 and older?
As of this week, the Pfizer vaccine is available for people aged 12 and over. (Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are currently only approved for ages 18 and over.) This means children ages 12 to 15 who receive their first dose of Pfizer vaccine now will be fully immunized in about five weeks – two weeks after receiving their second dose.
Once they’re fully vaccinated, the CDC says it’s safe for them to remove their masks in most settings, just like fully vaccinated adults. But state and local laws apply, as do school and business policies. And masks will always be needed for everyone on buses, trains and planes, as well as at stations and airports.
What about children under 12?
There are currently no vaccines approved for their use in the United States – meaning younger people must continue to mask themselves for now.
The CDC says all unvaccinated people aged 2 and over “should wear masks in public places and when surrounded by people who do not live in their homes.”
Experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that unvaccinated children 2 years of age and over continue to wear masks around others when indoors, especially when they are among at-risk adults such as than those who are immunocompromised or over 65 years of age.
“We know that children over 2 years old can safely wear masks to protect themselves and others from the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. We’ve already seen how masks have helped prevent the spread of respiratory infections in schools, camps, and other community settings, especially when everyone is wearing them, washing their hands, and following other control guidelines. infections, ”said Dr Yvonne Maldonado, chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, in a statement.
The three vaccine manufacturers licensed in the United States are currently studying the safety and effectiveness of their vaccines in children, including as young as 6 months of age.
But it will likely take at least a few more months before a vaccine is approved for children under 12. Pfizer says it won’t be ready to seek FDA approval for its COVID-19 vaccine in young children until September.
I am fully vaccinated, but my children are not. Can I safely remove my mask in most places?
According to CDC guidelines, the answer is yes.
In its updated advice for fully immunized people, the CDC does not list an exception for parents with unvaccinated children in their household. (However, people with immunosuppressive illnesses, including those taking immunosuppressive drugs, should speak to their doctor after being vaccinated to discuss any protective measures they may need.)
Dr Emily Landon, who leads infection control and prevention efforts at the University of Chicago Medicine, says the data supports the idea that parents of unvaccinated children can safely remove their own masks.
“The vast majority of the data that comes out – and what we see anecdotally in the field, taking care of patients – is that people who contract COVID after being vaccinated, as long as they are not immunocompromised, they get a really mild illness and have such a low viral load that they don’t pass it on to family members, ”Landon says.
For vaccinated parents, there is nothing wrong with taking off your masks, says Landon: “As long as everyone in your family, including yourself, is at low risk, it’s probably fine for you. ‘have a lifestyle unmasked now.
But she says parents may want to continue to wear a mask when they go out with their children, to set a good example for them.
“Children often do what they see their parents do. And I know a lot of my close friends who are doctors who have children under the age of 12, and I have a child who is not yet completely. vaccinated because he’s only 12. And we think it’s really important to keep wearing masks, in solidarity with our kids, to help them feel like they’re not an outlier and to make sure we set a good example for them, ”says Landon.
What if my child is immunocompromised?
“You might want to be more careful and make sure you don’t even report asymptomatic COVID home,” says Landon. “This is going to be a personal decision for the parents. But there is nothing wrong with continuing to wear your mask if you want to continue taking extra precautions against COVID.”
And when you’re indoors in a crowded environment, you also need to protect your eyes, she says.