Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2021

The Vaccine Split

What to do when you’re vaccinated but your kids are not

Birthday parties. Play dates. Trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Summer camps. These are the highlights of childhood. As more and more adults reach “full vaccination,” two weeks beyond their final dose, and begin enjoying new the new freedom to socialize safely with other fully vaccinated adults, they are asking for advice about what their kids can do safely. There are a few factors that would point to being able to relax mitigation measures for kids.  

  • The Pfizer vaccine is available in Vermont to those 16 and older. If your child is over 16, get them scheduled for a vaccine as soon as you can. The risks of COVID-19 are many, and the risks of vaccination are almost non-existent. 
  • Socialization is really important for kids’ mental health and development.
  • Kids have a lower chance of catching, spreading, and getting a severe case of COVID-19 compared to adults.

At the same time, there are counterpoints that indicate we should continue all of the precautions we have been following for the last year.

  • No vaccine is yet available to those under 16.  
  • COVID-19 can cause short-term disruption and long-term harm to kids in rare cases.
  • Kids can infect people close to them, even vaccinated people.
  • Rates of community transmission are still high, and variants are the predominant strains circulating right now. 

Taking all of those important points into consideration, the official recommendation lands us in a halfway point between our most rigid mitigation measures and a free-for-all:

  • Start with an assessment of your child’s risk and the risk factors of the adults in your circle. If anyone is at increased risk for COVID-19, continue to forgo gatherings at this time. 
  • If you would like to get kids together, keep the group small and outside. Outdoor gatherings are very low risk, as long as kids wear masks and do activities that allow social distance. Socializing outside provides the added benefits of fresh air, exercise, and time away from screens.  
  • If your pre-COVID self would have invited kids over for 3 hours, decrease that time to an hour or 90 minutes.
  • Encouraging your kids to keep their masks on may mean wearing yours, even if you and the other adults present are fully vaccinated. 
  • Let the other parents of the invited kids know that you are planning to follow the rules above. That way, everyone knows what to expect.
  • If you plan to send your child into a situation where you will not be there to supervise yourself, be sure to check with the adults in charge to ensure that the group will follow COVID-safe guidance. 

While you can’t be certain that your child will not become infected or infect someone else, the recommendations above walk the middle ground between the important risks of COVID-19 and all of the rewards that come with socializing with friends and family. 
 
Marie George, MD, is an infectious disease specialist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.

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