By mid-spring 2021, tens of millions of people in the United States and Canada had heeded recommendations from public health officials and gotten vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the Public Health Agency of Canada noted that the likelihood for severe illness from COVID-19 was very low for fully vaccinated individuals, prompting many people over the age of 16 to get vaccinated and paving the way for them to return to something resembling normal life. But what about children under 16?
In early May, the FDA was expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine for kids as young as 12. Though that’s welcome news for parents of children between the ages of 12 and 15, those with younger children may be wondering what they can do to keep their youngsters safe this summer. Like their parents, children are itching to get back to normal life, but no one knows when young children will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that children are not little adults, so medical professionals cannot just assume vaccines will have the same effect on kids as they do on older people, including adolescents. Clinical trials on thousands of children are now underway to determine if the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for kids, but the AAP notes that those trials will need to be completed and researchers will need to determine if the shots are safe before kids can receive the vaccinations en masse.
With no vaccine available to young children, parents will need to tiptoe through another summer balancing act as they try to keep kids engaged and happy but also safe.
• Dine outside. The CDC notes that on-site outdoor dining where tables are spaced six feet apart is significantly less risky than dining indoors. When dining out this summer, visit restaurants with outdoor seating that meets the minimum distancing recommendations.
• Resist the temptation to throw caution to the wind. As more adults and adolescents become fully vaccinated, community transmission should go down. That should calm parents’ fears, but they must keep their guard up anyway. Kids should keep wearing their masks when they go to stores or even outdoor areas like playgrounds or ballgames.
• Travel wisely. It’s important that parents keep their guard up on summer vacations as well. Traditional tourist attractions may not be wise when traveling with children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. When choosing a vacation destination, choose a locale you can drive to so contact with people from other households is minimized. As you shop for a place to stay, consider a private vacation rental instead of a hotel. Private rentals with their own fully equipped kitchens and barbecue areas can reduce reliance on dining out, which should also make it less likely that kids are exposed to the virus while traveling.
Until all children can be vaccinated against COVID-19, parents must continue to be patient and vigilant. That means safety must once again be a big priority this summer.