The New York Times

You’re Vaccinated. Your Kids Are Not. What Now?

WE ASKED PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS TO HELP ANSWER SOME OF YOUR MOST PRESSING QUESTIONS. As more parents get vaccinated ahead of their children, some families are finding themselves with questions that seem to have no clear answers: Is it finally OK to have indoor play dates? Can we take summer vacations, or fly on airplanes? What if my kids are high risk? If this new and perplexing reality has added to your stress, you’re not alone. “It has really produced a ton of new anxiety, this process of reopening, re-engaging with social interactions after a year trying to avoid them,” said Malia Jones, a community health scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The vaccines seem to have provided a promising path out of the pandemic, she said, “but also, oh my God, we have to renegotiate every single one of these situations.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times The good news is that there are ways to think through some of the most common questions families may have based on federal guidance and what we know about Covid-19 risks, experts said. But keep in mind that what’s right for one family may not be right for yours. “When you’re assessing risk, it’s not a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It’s a framework,” said Dr. Lucy McBride, an internal medicine physician based in Washington, D.C. FIRST, WHEN CAN I EXPECT MY KID TO GET VACCINATED? Nobody knows for sure when vaccines will be readily available for all children. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use in kids 16 and older, but no coronavirus vaccines have been approved yet for those who are younger. Late last month, however, Pfizer-BioNTech announced promising results from a clinical trial involving adolescents, finding that the vaccine was highly effective in kids between 12 and 15. It’s tricky to predict how long the rest of the clinical trials and approval processes will take, but Dr. James Conway, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health who oversees vaccination programs there, said that it’s likely that vaccines will be available for 12- to 15-year-olds this summer, for 5- to 11-year-olds in late 2021, and for babies over 6 months old, toddlers and preschoolers in early 2022. CAN WE SOCIALIZE WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHO ARE VACCINATED? If you are a parent who is fully vaccinated (meaning it’s been at least two weeks since you received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine, or two weeks since you received a single-dose vaccine), guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that it is safe for you to spend time indoors, unmasked, with a small group of other fully vaccinated people. The C.D.C. hasn’t defined what a small gathering is, though public health officials have typically capped private indoor gatherings at 10 people during the pandemic. If your kids are around and they want to visit, indoors and unmasked, with vaccinated friends or relatives like grandparents, it’s safe for them to do so as long as anyone who is unvaccinated is from a single household and not at high risk for complications. CAN WE SOCIALIZE WITH OTHERS WHO AREN’T VACCINATED? If your kids aren’t vaccinated, they shouldn’t be mingling indoors and maskless with unvaccinated people from outside their household, since there’s a risk that they could transmit Covid-19 to each other and to others, Dr. McBride said. An exception to this rule would be if families have formed a pod together in which they socialize with each other and no one else. However, “we’re seeing so many mental health impacts from Covid-19 on our kids — like anxiety and depression and isolation and loneliness,” said Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, a pediatrician at Northwestern Medicine. So it’s important for families to find ways to safely balance the two. “You can definitely have a play date with other families,” Dr. Jones said. “You just need to keep taking the same precautions.” Hold gatherings outside when you can, encourage physical distancing and, ideally, wear masks. “We’re not at a point yet where we can have indoor play dates with no masks on among unvaccinated kids,” she said. IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL WITH OR WITHOUT MY KIDS? Now that many adults are vaccinated, families are, understandably, feeling the itch to travel again — and even go on vacation. If you’re fully vaccinated and want to travel without your kids, it is safe to do so within the United States, according to C.D.C. guidelines, and you don’t need to get tested before or after your trip, or self-quarantine upon return. The chance that you will contract Covid-19 and then transmit it to others, including your family, is low. But what if you want to travel with your unvaccinated children? That’s a trickier question, but experts say that it can be done safely, as long as you take certain precautions. “It’s not out of the question to go on a family vacation over the summer,” said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Before planning your trip, check state and local health departments to see if there are any travel restrictions for where you live, and for anywhere along your route or where you’ll be staying. If you have a child with certain medical conditions that may increase their risk for complications from Covid-19, you may want to talk through your travel plans with their pediatrician first. Unvaccinated kids should get a Covid-19 test one to three days before the trip, and three to five days upon return. They should also self-quarantine for seven days after the trip (even if their test result is negative). While traveling, everyone (except children under 2) should still wear masks in public, stay six feet from others when possible, wash hands or use hand sanitizer, and avoid crowds. If your kids can tolerate it, Dr. Rivers suggested, have them double mask during plane rides with a surgical mask on the bottom and a cloth mask on top. CAN WE DINE INDOORS OR GO BACK TO THE GYM? If you’re fully vaccinated, the C.D.C. has said that you can resume activities like eating indoors at restaurants or going to the gym; and it is OK for you to go and enjoy these activities if you have unvaccinated children at home, Dr. Jones said. But keep in mind that these are still some of the highest-risk settings, and while it’s highly unlikely that a vaccinated parent would bring the virus home, it’s still best to avoid these venues when they’re crowded and wear masks and physically distance when possible. It’s also best not to bring your unvaccinated children along when doing these kinds of activities, experts said, since they might get exposed to, and spread, Covid-19 within the community. At restaurants, for instance, “you can’t eat with a mask on, and the restaurants will be full of other people who are of unknown vaccine status,” Dr. Jones said. (It’s far better to eat outdoors if possible.) TAKE A DEEP BREATH — THESE DECISIONS ARE HARD. It can be hard for parents to wrap their heads around the fact that Covid-19 — which can cause serious and sometimes deadly complications in adults — is typically mild for kids and teens, causing symptoms that are often no worse than those of a cold, if they have any symptoms at all. “Kids do experience mild or even asymptomatic illness, on average,” Dr. Rivers said. Still, some kids may be at higher risk for severe illness from Covid-19 than others. These include children and teens with underlying medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, congenital heart disease, a suppressed immune system, or certain genetic, neurologic or metabolic conditions like Down syndrome. Most high-risk kids still do OK when they get Covid-19, but parents may want to talk through the safety of various scenarios with their pediatricians, said Dr. Carmin Powell, a pediatrician at Stanford Medicine. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Weigh the pros and cons and make decisions that are a good fit for your family. “If people choose to remain conservative, that’s not wrong. And if people choose to become a little more flexible, that’s not wrong, either,” Dr. Rivers said. “It’s a hard time, but I think it’s good that we’re having these problems, because it means that things are improving.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company



Source link