If your family is like mine (and Kat’s), you’ve probably been facing this dilemma: What do you do when you’re vaccinated and your kids aren’t? The latest announcement regarding children’s eligibility for the vaccine revealed that the FDA may soon authorize the Pfizer vaccine for kids aged 12–15, which is great news but still leaves a lot of families uncertain about when their younger children will be eligible. In the meantime, what should we do to stay safe?
Have you and your partner been vaccinated but your kids haven’t? How are you making decisions about dining indoors at restaurants, going on vacation, and so on?
My son recently asked me when we’re going to Great Wolf Lodge again (we skipped our annual visit last year, of course), and I wasn’t sure what to tell him. (For now, I can give him an easy answer: Americans aren’t yet eligible for “discretionary” travel to Canada — vax’d or not — and we go to the Niagara Falls location, so we’re out of luck anyway…)
So, what’s a vaccinated parent with unvax’d kids to do?
Here’s the latest advice for vaccinated parents from experts interviewed by The New York Times:
1. It is safe for unvaccinated kids to accompany vaccinated parents to visit vaccinated friends and relatives, indoors and unmasked.
2. It is not safe for unvaccinated kids to accompany vaccinated parents to visit unvaccinated friends and relatives, indoors and unmasked.
3. Traveling within the U.S. with unvaccinated kids “can be done safely, as long as you take certain precautions” — this second NYT article has all the details.
4. It’s best to not bring unvaccinated kids to eat indoors with you at a restaurant.
However, the article concludes by advising parents, “Weigh the pros and cons and make decisions that are a good fit for your family.”
How about you, readers? If you’re vaccinated but your kids aren’t yet, how are you handing questions of safety right now? How are these choices affecting your plans for summer?
Stock photo via Deposit Photos / CandyBoxImages.
Great Wolf Lodge grossed me out even in non-COVID times.
Emily Oster’s newsletter today was about this and I found it very cathartic – she terms it “decision-fatigue-induced-vaccine-jealousy.” Which I have 100%
“Our older parents are chillaxing with their friends on vacation in Florida drinking fruity cocktails at the swim up bar and we’re still supposed to make our three year olds wear masks at the playground. THIS FEELS VERY UNFAIR.”
She’s right on with this. Under the CDC guidelines, kids still can’t hang out with their friends without masks, so unless you’re doing separated tables, they can’t, say, have a friend over for pizza and a movie. It’s super unfair that my low risk elementary kid has sacrificed a ton (lost relatives, suffered through spotty virtual school, adapted to no recess, not hung out with friends in over a year, and given up her sports) and continues to have to do so, but her high-risk grandparents who never stopped their risky behaviors are now traveling all over the US with friends.
I understand the factors that brought us here, but man. Jealousy is the right term.
You do understand no one is monitoring your home? You could have a child over and eat pizza together if the other family is ok with it.
Yeah I’ve been very cautious about Covid (even compared to this generally cautious community) and we haven’t followed CDC guidelines to the letter.
But a lot of daycares do! S/O to Michigan, having daycare 2yos mask up all day while unvaccinated grandparents eat indoors. It makes me rage.
But you don’t have to expose yourself to indoor dining. Day care is less discretionary, so it makes sense to take more precautions.
I’m glad my daycare has the kids wear masks. It’s not that much longer until kids can get vaccinated and I want to protect my kid, as well as kids who are higher risk from Covid (they do exist – not everyone who dies of this virus is 60+).
I fully agree that children shouldn’t have to sacrifice their education or their social life while adults enjoy indoor dining but I feel like (for most kids anyway) they’re not suffering by being asked to wear a mask while they go to school or play with friends. The school shutdowns were orders of magnitude worse in terms of the harm to kids and even the cancellation of “optional” events like birthday parties had MUCH more impact on kids’ lives than having to wear a mask. And I feel like we as a society all kind of just shrugged about that, so I have a hard time understanding the outrage about masks.
One thing that article points out is that we’ve got the basis for some pretty good data (i.e., schools that have had relaxed mask rules for several months). It frustrates me to no end that there doesn’t seem to be an analysis of that data out there. I know these things take time, but it really seems to me that this could be available, at least preliminarily, by now, given the priority level.
Emily Oster is a whiny baby. I used to appreciate her emphasis on holistic, individualized risk assessment even when I disagreed with her conclusions. All of her COVID messaging has been “woe is me, life as a privileged famous rich academic white lady in a pandemic is so hard and I should get to disregard the science because it’s just too difficult to be stuck at home with my kids like everyone else.”
Kids are EXTREMELY low risk. I am so tired of saying this, but here it goes again: an octogenarian is literally ten thousand times as likely to die of COVID as is an elementary school aged child. The evidence also suggests that kids transmit the virus to adults at a much lower rate than adults to adults or adults to kids.
We’ll be fully vaccinated by late July hopefully (in the UK, where rollout has been quite regimented and uptake very very high, with a longer gap between doses). We have a nearly 4 year old.
We’ll see my husband’s family mid August, a mix of vaccinated adults and likely unvaccinated 20 somethings (who are living their best lives) so we’ll only do outside gatherings, which I’m sure will cause drama, but my husband is back in the office and my son is at nursery, so that’s our risk budget used up. Not wasting it on people who have consistently demonstrated poor judgement (getting on a jam packed train to family when their roommate was self-isolating awaiting test results).
My parents will hopefully come in late August, both fully vaccinated. We’ll start eating outside again (just allowed 2 weeks ago) and have started doing outdoor playdates etc. But honestly, I think it’ll take me some time to ease back into things. Not judging others, but personally quite cautious and in now hurry to rush back to a restaurant, theatre, crowded venue.
We’re fortunate that all our relatives and close friends got the vaccine so we can safely socialize with them. For going out in public, our general rule is indoors if masks are required and outdoor if masks are not (we still wear masks though). So we’ve been doing outdoor dining, the zoo, playground and a toddler soccer class (the coach is vaccinated) but holding off on most indoor stuff except the public library. Daycare requires masks and I’m hoping religious school will require masks and we can do that in the fall. We are traveling by plane this summer which I’m nervous about, but the flights are all nonstop, masks are required (through September anyway) and I’m still hoping Covid numbers will come down some more before we fly.
I heard the next vaccine approval tier will be 5+, hopefully this fall. My 3 year old is the height and weight of an average 5 year old so I’m hoping we’ll be able to get the vaccine when they approve for that cohort but I don’t know if it will be possible.
Pfizer’s next tier (which they’re hoping to submit for EUA in Sept) would actually be 2-11, not 5+. So there’s hope for normalcy soon even for preschoolers!
Oh really?!? That’s amazing. I knew they were currently doing trials in infants as young as six months, but I had heard the next tier would be 5-11 because they were staggering various ages within the current trial and would determine the correct dosage for the older kids first. But you just made my week! Life will be so much better once my kid is vaccinated.
Ah I see this on CNN now. I don’t know how I missed it before. All the more reason to continue being cautious this summer, with vaccines for kids soo close.
Size doesn’t matter. It’s all about age.
in my state there is no more mask requirement and everything is open 100%. i might feel differently if I lived elsewhere, but for now, we are sticking with outdoor stuff for the most part. the main change is that i am now comfortable taking my kids inside a few friends homes and with the grandparents flying to visit us since DH and I are now vaccinated. Yes, i know that kids are generally lower risk, but i just read something else that more kids are starting to get covid, even if they aren’t dying from it and while i know the vaccine will likely prevent me from ending up in the hospital, i still don’t feel like getting sick and having to parent. also, my kids are newly potty trained and we go to the potty multiple times during a meal at home and i’m not quite ready to deal with that at a restaurant. i think i’ve basically landed on that i’m not comfortable in unmasked situations with strangers. there is also an argument currently taking place on a local mom’s facebook group about how you should not be asking your nanny, cleaning person, etc. about whether or not they are vaccinated for covid and someone literally posted that “it saddens me to hear of anyone that would force another human being to put something into their body against their will so that they can keep working and provide for their family.” — and this is why this pandemic will never end
We’re doing outdoor stuff and seeing all family/friends as all adults are vaccinated (thank god no crazies in our circle). We truly believe kids are less likely to transmit/catch it amongst themselves and that their infections are almost all mild. Yes we are of rare cases. There’s no need for us to dine indoors.
I have a 2 and 4 year old and completely agree that there is no need for us to dine indoors. Looking back, we probably shouldn’t have been dining indoors pre-COVID. It was so stressful with my high-energy kids.
we’re doing everything normally. We follow mask rules generally but don’t enforce them on our kids strictly if risk is low (e.g. outside). It is time to stop making kids suffer for adults’ paranoia and desire to virtue-signal.
Amen! We’ve never worn masks outside and I won’t make our kids do it. It hasn’t been part of our state’s (now revoked) mandate, and their school no longer requires it. We respect the rules but are not living in fear. Our kids’ schools have been open face-to-face 5 days a week since September with no documented transmissions from student to student, student to teacher or teacher to student in any of the elementary schools in our town or in our preschool.
You know, I think you’re going to get some pushback for this type of comment but I wanted to chime in and say that there is SUCH variability by region here. We are in MA where we had an outdoor mask mandate and even though it lifted, everyone still wears them. That said, our school had TONS of cases (no in-school spread though)– 5/20 of the kids in my daughters class have already had COVID (again- had it at different times, none contracted while at school). We live close together in cities and homes on small lots. Grocery stores are small.
We have family in TX which has had a totally different approach to things and after visiting recently, it’s clear why. People have so much more space to naturally socially distance in the vast majority of that state. It’s nothing like MA. Cases were never as high there, either.
what if you were to visit another place that requires it? you would just not do it?
Sounds like they would wear masks if required since she literally says in her comments they respect the rules.
My NYC neighborhood has 13% fax rate and two different populations that have been adamantly anti-mask, anti-vaccine and pretending there’s no virus at all
Please come here and let your kids play with the kids whose religious schools never closed and who grabbed one of my daughter’s friends masks off her face.
This board is not local and your decision is stupid I my situation, so quit acting holier-than-thou.
This. We have a nominal mask rule in our schools. Enforcement varies widely. One school had to delay opening because 12 teachers were infected during a staff meeting the week before school started. There have been multiple outbreaks on buses, in classrooms, and on sports teams. (Aside: why is it necessary to have unmasked wrestling matches during a surge in a pandemic?)
If I were the mother of the child whose mask had been torn off, I would have called the police to report the incident as an assault, then alerted the media. This kind of behavior is directed or encouraged by these children’s parents and needs to be stopped.
It was an Orthodox Jewish boy who grabbed a mask off a little black girl. I don’t think the police would have dealt with it well.
Mary Moo Cow says
Us, too, for the most part.
I have my kid wear a mask to protect her and other kids, not adults (who, at least in my state, are either vaccinated or unvaccinated by choice). There are some alarming studies about kids and Covid, especially the UK variant, including one out of Ireland that found 1/30 kids with Covid were hospitalized. I realized that we don’t diagnose all infections and so the actual rate of hospitalizations is likely significantly lower, but even if you’re not hospitalized it doesn’t seem like a virus you want to catch. There’s lot of evidence of long term complications even in people who had asymptomatic or mild Covid.
If this virus was like HIV and we were never going to have a vaccine, yes, life has to go back to something resembling normal at some point. But with a vaccine for kids certainly not more than a year away, erring on the side of caution for now is well worth it for us. Once my kid is vaccinated, we’ll drop the masks except where they’re required.
Same, my kids wear masks (happily and willingly) when there are other kids on the playground because they are in daycare and thus exposed to a lot of other unvaccinated people, and I don’t want them responsible for infecting anyone on the playground (I especially felt this way before schools reopened, when my kids were just inherently more likely to be vectors than all the kindergarteners who were in virtual school all day). I’m honestly not super worried about (1) my kids getting COVID or (2) if they get it, having long-term complications. Or at least, I’d put my concern similar to my concern about the flu. So yeah, I wouldn’t describe us as “living in fear” so much as “trying to be a considerate member of the community.”
An acquaintance who is an FDA scientist (but was not speaking on behalf of the agency and is not involved in the approvals) recently expressed skepticism about approval of the vaccine for young children. Their opinion is that the emergency use authorization was obviously warranted for adults and teenagers because of the danger of the disease, but as young kids don’t seem to have the same adverse outcomes as those 12+, the FDA may be more reticent about granting the EUA.
Dr. Kate says
The unfortunate reality in the US is that they likely will feel the need to approve it if circulating viral levels remain high and children continue to become ill (albeit at lesser rates and severity than adults, but non-zero and more serious than with flu). In countries where adults have a high uptake – see data from Israel and UK – it will be unnecessary to vaccinate children because they can reach herd immunity among adults. But here, with so many buying into the vast misinformation and refusing to be vaccinated, children will remain at some risk.
“children continue to become ill (albeit at lesser rates and severity than adults, but non-zero and more serious than with flu)”
What are you even talking about? Please compare flu deaths with COVID deaths; they are basically identical. That is even WITH a flu vaccine.
I think a lot of parents will choose not to vaccinate their kids for the reasons you stated, but I’ve talked to some experts about this too and they all seem pretty confident it will get FDA approval for kids of all ages by early 2022. Keep in mind also that the earliest it would be approved would be the fall and by then the current vaccine will be fully licensed for adults (and older teens in the case of Pfizer). I think there’s (at the very least psychologically) a big difference between giving kids emergency access to an emergency use vaccine and giving kids emergency access to a vaccine that has been fully licensed for adults and some teens.
I am all on the vax train as is my entire circle. But I won’t be getting my kids (all under 8) vaccinated until the vax is fully approved. They don’t need an emergency use vaccine.
Yes, there are social good reasons to get them vaccinated, and once it’s fully approved we will do it. But unlike adults, I want a full approval before making this call for my otherwise low-risk kids. If any of them had any complicating issues it would be a different answer entirely.
When the EUAs for Pfizer and Moderna were first announced, I remember an expert on NPR explaining that the evidence presented for the vaccines was similar to what would be presented for full approval and not an EUA. In this particular case the EUA v. full approval distinction seems less meaningful than it would ordinarily be.
Anon at 8:50, I used to feel the same way but after learning more about potential long term consequences from the virus even in people who had extremely mild illness or even no symptoms, I changed my mind. I also understand that while kids and adults have different biology and our immune systems don’t work the same way, the fact that so many adults have been safely vaccinated at this point makes me a lot more comfortable. I certainly would not have wanted my kid to be among the first million or even 10 million people in the US to receive it, but since 150 million adults and counting have been vaccinated in the US alone, it feels like a much more proven vaccine than it was just a couple months ago. I get where you’re coming from though, and used to be in the same boat.
i disagree in the sense that if the local rule is to wear a mask, or if you are visiting a place outdoors where their policy is that children of a certain age are supposed to wear masks, i have my kids wear masks. to me it is no different than any other rule/policy like asking me not to bring in a large bag etc. if my kids and i don’t want to wear masks, that’s fine and we don’t need to go there
Dr. Kate says
Wow… you’re demonstrating a pretty gross misunderstanding of risk if you think its paranoia and virtue signaling. I agree standards needn’t be as stringent for young children for a lot of reasons backed by strong scientific evidence, but none of them are because I’m judging people who have a lower risk tolerance than I do.
This is about where we stand, too. Masking outdoors, with a few narrow exceptions where there were crowds or very defined spaces, has never been more than extremely rare here, so that’s not been an issue. We’re wearing our masks and requiring the kids to do the same when it’s requested or socially expected, as that’s just basic politeness. They wear it in school, so it’s not a problem. But otherwise, it’s life as normal.
I literally know no one who is worried about this since vaccinations hit. No parents I’ve encountered are keeping their kids from basically anything or expressing concerns anymore. My co-workers, neighbors, and family members seem fine. Reading these some of these comments is like visiting some sort of distant place and time.
Wow, that’s so different than our city and social circle. (Granted vaccines are available for all here only for the last couple weeks and we are in a major surge…). We still wear masks outdoors if we can’t also distance, because random strangers don’t know if we are vaccinated or not. My kids are little, not great at distancing, and they snd all their friends wear masks around other kids so they don’t worry about getting too close while playing. We sent my 5 year old back to school (all masked) but are going to limit him In other less necessary indoor activities until either he is vaccinated or the county numbers are way down. So no indoor sports, for example.
Anon Lawyer says
I don’t get it – “since vaccinations hit”? Is everyone you know a health care worker or over 70 whose been vaccinated for months? I signed up as soon as I was eligible and just got my second shot last week and I wasn’t in the last eligibility group in my state.
I’m not necessarily particularly concerned about my kid interacting with other kids or vaccinated adults, but we just reached the place where every adult who wants it and can get the shot and it’s going to take time for that process to go forward.
Anon from 3:59 says
We’ve been at “vaccines for anyone and everyone” for over a month, and several weeks before that we got to “anyone who is high risk or lives with someone who is high risk,” which basically covered anyone who was worried. It’s true that I do work in health care and got very early access, and a lot of people I know were able to access early vaccines because people they know had extras. Plus, our rates cratered around early Feb and have stayed low, for reasons that may or may not have been related to vaccines.
So yeah, everyone I know who wants a vaccine has had it for quite a while now. I’m sure there are some people who are still worried, but I literally don’t know who they are. I keep trying to be cautious around other parents I don’t know well just in case they are, only to find out that they’re just fine. Like I said, we’re in different worlds.
We are doing most things! Indoor dining is a hold out for me, but also that’s an easy call to make in May and it’s more chill with the kids anyway. Planning domestic travel for the summer.
Can’t wait until my kids can get the shot!
We have one child, 6 months old.
We’re in no rush to vacation or to eat indoors, so no plans to do either of those any time soon. I think our biggest change will be that once our nanny is also fully vaccinated, we’ll stop wearing masks at home when she’s here (she wears one and so do I, since I WFH full-time, and my husband does as well any time he’s working from home).
Eventually, we’ll let vaccinated family members fly to visit us (and we’ll fly to visit them), but no immediate plans to do so and not currently comfortable with this. Low risk, yes, but higher than our tolerance.
One child, 14 months old. Both parents will be fully vaccinated in 2 weeks. Nanny and all grandparents vaccinated. We are dipping our toes into the water by parents doing a date night at an outdoor restaurant. We may have one parent return to (masked) in-store grocery shopping. We may try to do (unmasked) outdoor visits with other vaccinated adult friends who have unvaccinated babies. Maybe even a timed ticket to the zoo (outdoors only, likely masked due to potential crowds). Other than that, we’re still staying mostly to ourselves/family. No indoor meals or even church yet. But we are returning to occasional self-care like dentist, dermatologist, haircut, pedicure, etc. that we had been holding off on (all masked). Things are still not great in our area.
The one big change: we’ve started letting our kids do unmasked outdoor playdates with other families who are (1) in the kids’ class at school and (2) have vaccinated parents. It is definitely a risk but one I’m comfortable with if I know their parents reasonably well. I’d also be willing to do unmasked indoor playdates with them, but at this point outdoor is so easy that it’s not necessary.
Boston Legal Eagle says
Husband and I will be fully vaxxed + 2 weeks at the end of May. We are already planning a couples trip for the end of June, where my parents (also fully vaxxed) will watch the kids. I think we will mostly do outdoor activities there and it’s within driving distance, but we may do an indoor restaurant or two. It’s so strange how avoiding all dining has become normal to us now, when we used to go out to eat often, and how we have to weigh all of these factors now! Summer here should make staying outside with the kids pretty easy – we’ll do the zoo (probably masked still but we’ll see), playgrounds, playdates with daycare friends and our adult friends (all vaxxed). We’re also going to the Cape again in August, which is what we did last year and will be even safer this year. I’m sure my MIL will want to visit, she is fully vaxxed too. Luckily we’re in a high compliance states for vaccines so as summer progresses, I’m sure I’ll feel more and more comfortable. We weren’t really planning to travel far or on planes until the kids are older anyway, so not too much will change there. I expect we’ll get massages and pedicures again, and go out to eat (probably still outdoors) while my parents watch the kids.
I’m really hoping 2+ kids will be eligible for the vaccines by fall, but if not, I guess my kids will continue to wear masks at school (at least the older one in K).
I honestly couldn’t care less about kids needing to continue wearing masks at school next year, what I’m hoping they relax is the strict cohorting. It’s really limiting to keep pre-k and early elementary kids with the same 10-15 kids all the time. Normally they do things like reading buddies with older kids, mix in with other classes at recess, show off class plays or art projects to others etc. I miss the community-building that typically happens in schools.
Same. I couldn’t care less about masks but I would like to see the other precautions end ASAP – certainly once kids can be vaccinated, if not before. I don’t want to have to keep my kid home for TWO WEEKS any time someone in her class tests positive. I want my daycare to open the mixed-class room for the kids who don’t nap. I want daycare to resume the field trips and special events that my kid used to love and let parents come into the classroom to see their kids’ art. It’s weird to me to drop masks before bringing back all the other stuff like that. Masks really just seem like NBD to all the kids (and parents) but a lot of the other stuff – especially the awful two week quarantines – is really impacting our lives.
I don’t seek out crowds, but otherwise we’re living our lives and wearing masks where social norms require it. In my blue bubble, this is basically everywhere in public, including playgrounds. (It angers me to no end that our daycare is still not letting the kids user their playground when all the kids certainly play on community playgrounds after hours.) It’s about 50-50 on bike trails or while passing other hikers.
I have a massage booked, and DH and I are going away for a night or two once I’m officially fully vaxxed, and we’ll continue to do driving trips with the kids. I don’t have a compelling reason to get my kids on a plane, but if I did I would be OK with them flying. All of my social circle will be fully vaxxed by end of this month, and with our close friends we’re OK with the kids playing indoors together without masks. I wouldn’t host an indoor birthday party, but I am not opposed to indoor dining… I just default to outdoor if it’s available and it is basically everywhere, now.
DH and I have been fully vaxxed for almost a month now (as have the grandparents). We see grandparents regularly (and had been pre-vaccine because we were keeping a bubble with them) without masks. DD started back at part-time preschool a few weeks ago (masked). Once our vaccines were fully effective, we started letting kiddo have mask free outdoor playdates with neighborhood kids where we don’t know the parents’ status and indoor playdates unmasked with other kids where we know the parents are vaccinated and the kids are all low risk. I started going into the office 1-2 days a week. DH has started going into stores to pickup or return things (we mostly shop online anyways). We also started outdoor dining again, with kiddo. DH and I have a trip planned for memorial day for a reunion for DH (DD will stay with her grandparents) and we have a multigenerational family trip planned for end of summer where all adults will be vaxxed by then (in fact I think next week they will all be). All driving; not ready to get on a plane yet. I just signed DD up for vacation bible school at a couple of churches for 2 sessions in June and one in July which I assume will be masked as well, but at minimum I know they are doing reduced capacity and cohorting and I expect virus levels to be significantly lower in our area by then (already dropping).
Our community transmission rate is basically zero now. We allow unmasked play dates with a close group of friends / classmates and we try and keep them outside. Inside is okay too for this group.
We follow all the rules and whenever we are inside or potentially within 6’ if anyone we all mask up.
My kid goes to kindergarten, masked. This summer, I am signing him up for camps that have COVID protocols that generally require masks.We do not live near family, but are not concerned about family flying to visit IF that person has been vaccinated. As our entire family lives in an area with lax mask requirements and spotty vaccination, we do not intend to travel to the family until our child has been vaccinated.