(Trends Wide) — When children ages 5 to 11 started getting the COVID-19 vaccine last week, families across the country breathed a sigh of relief. Your younger children will soon be much better protected against the coronavirus.
But will it arrive in time for Thanksgiving? Will we be able to meet more easily because more children are vaccinated? What precautions should we take? What if you have to travel? And what about children who are too young to be vaccinated?
I have spoken with our expert, Dr. Leana Wen, a Trends Wide medical analyst who is an emergency room physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is also the author of a new book, “Lifelines: A Physician’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health,” and is the mother of two young children.
Trends Wide: I have heard from many parents who are very relieved that their children ages 5 to 11 can get the covid-19 vaccine. Was that also your experience?
Dra. Leana WenRelief, no doubt, because many parents have been concerned about their children’s exposure to coronavirus at school. Parents have also been concerned about their own exposure at work, and inadvertently bringing COVID-19 to their children. Many families are making plans for what they will be able to do soon, once their entire home is fully vaccinated.
There is also a lot of envy. Envy of families like mine, with children under 5 who still do not meet the requirements. And there are still many families that have not gotten appointments for their children, because they have filled up quickly. Soon there will be more centers providing the vaccine for younger children, and I hope it will be a matter of weeks before all the children who want to get vaccinated can easily get it.
Trends Wide: Can families relax on Thanksgiving Day once their children are vaccinated?
Wen: Once the whole family is fully vaccinated, it would certainly be reasonable to resume many more activities and return to something closer to pre-pandemic normality. However, it must be remembered that full vaccination of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is the one that is licensed for children, means two injections, separated by at least three weeks, followed by another two weeks to allow optimal production of antibodies.
Since the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 just became available last week, these younger children are not going to be fully vaccinated in time for Thanksgiving. (The only exception will be children enrolled in the clinical trial who received the vaccine.)
Most children who are getting their first doses will now have partial protection for Thanksgiving. I do not recommend that they behave as if they are fully vaccinated. Remain cautious for now, especially since you are very close to being fully vaccinated.
Trends Wide: Does that mean families with young children can’t get together on Thanksgiving?
Wen: Not at all. It only means that parents should not consider their children fully vaccinated if they have only received one vaccine. Families with partially vaccinated children should continue to take extra precautions.
If a lot of people gather, especially other unvaccinated people, it is safest to gather outside. If an indoor meeting is planned, he advised everyone to reduce the risk and self-quarantine for at least three days before the meeting, and then get tested for COVID-19 on the day of the meeting. An over-the-counter rapid antigen test is fine for this purpose.
Trends Wide: During those three days, what if the children have to go to school and the adults have to go to work?
Wen: It is difficult for everyone to stop their life before the meeting. I would encourage people to do whatever they can to reduce their risk in this period. People going to school and work where they will be surrounded by other people with unknown vaccination status should wear high-quality masks when indoors. Do not go to closed bars or restaurants with many people, or meet with other people, indoors, during this period.
This method of reducing risk and then testing is not going to prevent all cases of COVID-19. At this point in the pandemic, most people are not trying to eliminate all risk, but to reduce it enough to be able to recover the activities of our lives that are really important. That includes seeing loved ones on Thanksgiving.
Trends Wide: Should Adults Try to Get Booster Shots Before Thanksgiving, If They Are Suitable? Would that also help protect children?
Wen: Adults recommended for booster shots should get them by November 11 to protect themselves in time for the Thanksgiving holidays. Studies show that booster shots increase antibody levels and reduce the likelihood of infections, so getting a booster shot before holiday get-togethers will help protect that person, and probably the children as well. that surround her.
Trends Wide: What advice do you have for families who have to travel on Thanksgiving?
Wen: Wear a high-quality mask when in closed public places. The best is an N95, KN95 or KF94. Try not to remove your mask except to take small sips of water. For younger children or people who have to eat more often, try to find a place away from others while eating.
Trends Wide: Many families have children with a mixed vaccination status: some children fully vaccinated, others who have just received their first shots, and others who are still too young to get vaccinated. How should they face the next vacation?
Wen: The family should discuss the level of risk they are willing to take. It might be reasonable to allow a fully vaccinated teenager to see their fully vaccinated friends for a sleepover, even if there is a younger child who has just had their shots. But parents could put a limit and say that the vaccinated teenager cannot attend an indoor concert where they would be surrounded by a bunch of unvaccinated people of unknown vaccination status. Children who are partially vaccinated should continue to take extra precautions for now, with the expectation that they will be fully vaccinated by the next vacation in December.