Now children 16 years old and up are able to get vaccinated, however as summer break approaches many families with younger children are wondering if it is safe to plan a vacation with their kids, as they won’t have access to the vaccine this summer.
At the end of March, Pfizer-BioNTech announced there may be a vaccine for kids 12 to 15 years old this summer. A clinical trial involving adolescents found promising results, and the vaccine was “highly effective.”
Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer says the data is being submitted to the FDA, “with the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year.”
Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech said children are also longing for a normal life. “The initial results we have seen in the adolescent studies suggest that children are particularly well protected by vaccination, which is very encouraging given the trends we have seen in recent weeks regarding the spread of the B.1.1.7 UK variant.”
Protecting loved ones over the summer
“I’m a parent and we are going on a vacation,” said Dr. Jill Weatherhead, the Director of Medical Education at the National School of Tropical Medicine (NSTM) at Baylor College of Medicine, in an interview on Thursday.
Dr. Weatherhead explained that this summer younger children won’t have access to a vaccine, and it comes down to evaluating your family’s risk as the decision maker when making plans.
Her advice is for adults to get vaccinated as soon as possible if you are planning on going on a vacation, and doing so not only protects yourself and the community, but your kids.
When we think about the virus we know that older individuals have a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, however, Dr. Weatherhead said that doesn’t mean that younger children can’t get sick and parents shouldn’t take precautions for younger children.
With more variants that are more transmissible, children may become infected by these variants, and as more adults are being vaccinated and protected, the younger kids and age groups will be filling the niche of those who get the virus, Dr. Weatherhead said.
“Hopefully as more and more adults get vaccinated we create protection for the children,” she said and mentioned ‘cocooning’ as a way to protect infants and kids from an infectious disease—meaning that if all the adults are vaccinated around a vulnerable person, the risk to that vulnerable person goes down.
However, after vaccination, you still need to continue mask wearing and keeping clear of high crowded areas, indoors and poor ventilation, explained Dr. Weatherhead.
Can you plan a trip to see grandma or other relatives this summer?
“You have access to what your risk tolerance is, ” Dr. Weatherhead advises.
Based on CDC guidelines, if you are a fully vaccinated adult you can go visit another family that is unvaccinated but low risk:
- You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.
- You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks or staying 6 feet apart, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Where is a safe place to vacation with kids this summer?
“We want families to have time together but it needs to be done in a safe manner,” explained Dr. Weatherhead. Going to an area where there isn’t high transmission is best, keep in mind outdoor activities such as going camping, to the beach, spending time at a lake, or playing sports outside are all great activities for families during the summer months.
Considering variants that are emerging and unknowns around the impact of the vaccine “we can’t safely say how people will be impacted if they travel,” says Anita Gupta, DO, MPP, PharmD, and assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Fun can still happen, but the scope will look different this summer, and experts suggest looking for an activity, hotel, or getaway that won’t be packed with visitors. Stick to shorter flights if you are making plans to fly this summer.
CNBC reported on Wednesday that while 74% of Americans will stay within the U.S. this summer 67% plan to travel this summer.
A road trip or a vacation destination closer to home may be ideal as it can involve less exposure. If you do travel consider the COVID-19 caseloads and hospitalizations at the destination, researching and knowing ahead of time infection rates can also ease your mind when preparing your trip. Also consider the risk involved with the enjoyment you are seeking, if traveling means traveling by airplane being vaccinated is recommended by experts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends holding off travel plans until you are vaccinated. Here is updated guidance for domestic travel for fully vaccinated people.
What if my child’s friend is high risk?
If a family friend says they can’t spend time this summer, applaud them for doing the best they can for their family and assessing the risk, Dr. Weatherhead said.
Although we are moving toward the end of the tunnel and toward some normalcy, risk has to be evaluated at a personal level as to what you are comfortable with to keep your family safe, she explained.
We have to have compassion and empathy for others who are evaluating their risk level at this time, she added.