Millions of vaccinated Americans are breathing a sigh of relief this summer as they return to favorite family pastimes. But for families with children too young to be vaccinated, some summer activities still require a level of caution.
So what events are safe, and what tips should families follow to stay healthy? Brian Kaminski, DO, CPPS, a board-certified emergency medicine physician and vice president of quality and patient safety at ProMedica, weighed in on the risks and benefits of socializing and what precautions are still needed for unvaccinated kids.
Consider the Safety of the Scenario
The availability of vaccines for adults and older kids has made it safer to be out in the community. Still, families will have to consider the risks and benefits for each scenario before making plans and when considering what precautions to take.
“I encourage parents, as they feel comfortable, to get back into social settings,” said Dr. Kaminski. “The pandemic has taken a toll on mental health and increased feelings of isolation across all ages. As we move out of the pandemic restrictions, most people, including children, can participate in more activities. But parents will have to exercise some judgment depending on the level of risk.”
When it comes to large, crowded events, keeping kids outdoors reduces their risk of infection and the possibility of spreading the virus to others. “We definitely know that outdoor activity is much safer than indoor activity,” said Dr. Kaminski. “If a child is in contact with another person with COVID-19, there’s still a risk of transmission when they’re spending a lot of time together outdoors. But it’s far less of a risk than spending time in close contact indoors with minimal air circulation.”
Still, if an unvaccinated child will be visiting locales like theme parks, parades or sports events, they’ll be best protected by wearing a mask. Indoor events like movie theaters, museums or restaurants and the like also pose a greater risk for kids, so it’s a good idea to keep them masked.
Gatherings with Friends and Family
Playdates and social events depend on your immediate family’s situation.
“If everyone in your household is vaccinated and low-risk — and those in the other family are vaccinated — then it’s safer to get together,” said Dr. Kaminksi. “On the other hand, if you have unvaccinated high-risk people in your household, you should strongly consider the possibility your child may expose those individuals to the virus.”
When mingling with other friends or family, staying outdoors is your best bet if you have unvaccinated kids or other high-risk people in your household.
What about visits from grandma and grandpa? Dr. Kaminski agreed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that kids can safely have close contact with vaccinated grandparents. If a grandparent hasn’t been vaccinated, it’s best to refrain from visiting just yet.
Prevent COVID-19 in Kids
While children tend to have more mild cases of COVID-19, it can still lead to serious illness in some kids. And children of all ages can play a role in the spread of COVID-19. According to Dr. Kaminski, the following tips can help keep your kids safe:
The best way parents can protect their children under 12 is by getting vaccinated and vaccinating siblings over 12. “Without a doubt, the top priority is to get vaccinated yourself. If you have younger unvaccinated children, you provide additional protection to your family by getting your shot,” said Dr. Kaminski.
Because scientists are still learning about reinfection, it’s best to take the same precautions, even if your child has already had COVID-19. “When in public or large settings where you don’t know the vaccination status of others, continue using methods known to prevent COVID-19, including having children above the age of 2 wear a mask, practice social distancing and perform thorough handwashing,” said Dr. Kaminski.
Vaccine Availability for Kids
Vaccine clinical trials are underway for children under 12. Once a vaccine is approved for kids, parents should feel confident that it has been thoroughly tested and proven safe. Dr. Kaminski explained, “While it’s understandable that people might be concerned about something so new, the data we have for adults and teens shows the vaccine is safe and highly effective. So, if we see the same data in younger kids, I encourage parents to get their children vaccinated.”
Dr. Kaminski added, “There is reason to be hopeful that we will see Emergency Use Authorization granted for the 5-12 age group in the coming months, so parents should begin considering the vaccination for children in this age group.”
Your ProMedica family practitioner is here to help with any questions about the vaccine, the availability of the vaccine and its effectiveness.
Learn more about COVID-19 on ProMedica’s website.