Some parents might be vaccinated for COVID-19, but their children under 16 have likely not received the shot yet. A health expert shares what parents need to consider until a vaccine for kids is approved.
Dr. Leana Wen tells CNN the Pfizer vaccine is approved for those 16 and older and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson is approved for people 18 (when they are eligible according to state and local guidelines). She notes teens (12 and over) may be able to be vaccinated by the fall of 2021 and younger kids possibly in 2022.
Until then, Dr. Wen answers the questions parents are likely asking regarding the safety of their yet-to-be vaccinated kids.
How will kids stay safe when they return to school not vaccinated?
Dr. Wen says safety precautions like mask-wearing in the classroom, distancing and vaccinating teachers and school staff will reduce the risk of infection.
Can kids visit grandparents and other family members?
Yes, if other family members have been vaccinated they can see those who are unvaccinated, as long as they are not at high-risk for severe disease as a result of COVID. She notes, "It's fine for grandparents to visit their children and grandchildren, and stay with them, have dinner with them indoors, hug them, and not wear masks."
What about multiple households (with vaccinated and unvaccinated members) interacting?
She explains this scenario gets trickier when multiple people in multiple households are not vaccinated, telling CNN, "It's best for families with any unvaccinated individuals to see one another outdoors only, with members of different families spaced 6 feet apart. If children are playing together and can't always abide by 6-foot distancing, they should be wearing masks." She adds, "Take extra care if your child has underlying medical conditions."
Should kids be going to restaurants yet?
She explains takeout is still the safest, followed by outdoor dining, and then indoor dining that adheres to good safety protocols like distancing between tables and proper ventilation. Dr. Wen notes, "The risk isn't zero, but probably pretty low, at outdoor restaurants. Indoors, that risk is going to be higher. I'd be particularly cautious if there's a child who is immunosuppressed or has additional risk factors for severe COVID-19."
How can kids safely attend birthday parties for other kids?
Like other situations where there are multiple households not vaccinated intermingling, Dr. Wen says to avoid indoor parties, stay masked up and keep your distance.
Will summer travel with kids be safe?
Dr. Wen warns it comes with a certain level of risk, depending on what you do. Lower risk summer travel ideas: a road trip and air travel where all passengers are masked, or something like camping. Increased risk occurs usually at the destination while being exposed to more people outside of your household with things like eating out, going to amusement parks, attending large family gatherings, or a wedding raising the risk of infection.
Until more people are vaccinated and rates of COVID-19 infections dramatically drop, Dr. Wen stresses, "At this point in the pandemic, we need to move to the concept of weighing risk and then trying to reduce it as much as possible. Having parents vaccinated is an important step to reducing risk, even if children are not yet vaccinated, but there are still steps that must be taken to protect the kids — and everyone around us."