Between 2 million and 3 million Covid-19 vaccines are administered in the United States every day. That means many parents are being vaccinated but not their kids – since the vaccine is not yet authorized for children under 16.
While many parents can breathe a sigh of relief with their own vaccinations, it may be hard to feel really free as long as their children are unvaccinated. It’s children who need to play on the playground, socialize with classmates and friends, and hang out without parents worrying all the time.
How should vaccinated parents approach decisions about play dates, going to restaurants, and vacations while their children are unvaccinated? CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, weighs in.
CNN: When do you think Covid-19 vaccines are going to be available for children?
Dr. Leana Wen: The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently authorized for people 16 and older; all the other vaccines are for 18 and older only. Studies are underway for younger age groups. Dr. Anthony Fauci (the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) has projected that by the late summer, results could be available for those 12 years and older, and teenagers could start getting vaccinated by the start of the school year. Younger children probably won’t be able to receive the vaccine until 2022.
CNN: That’s a long way away. Will kids be able to return to school for in-person instruction in the fall?
Wen: Yes, and they should be able to return to in-person school now, too. Numerous studies have shown that mitigation measures like universal mask-wearing can reduce risk such that the rate of transmission in schools is lower than the rate of transmission in the community. That means schools can be some of the safest places for children.
It will be important for all teachers, school staff and parents to be vaccinated going into the fall. That helps reduce community transmission even further and protects those who are unable to be vaccinated yet, especially children.
CNN: In the meantime, a lot of parents are getting vaccinated. What’s your advice to them? Can they have grandparents visit, if kids aren’t vaccinated?
Wen: Getting parents vaccinated is really important. It reduces their own chance of illness, and also reduces their likelihood of transmitting coronavirus to people around them including their children. It also makes visits from other family members safer. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said fully vaccinated people can visit another family in which not everyone is vaccinated, so long as those who are not yet vaccinated aren’t at high-risk for severe disease from Covid-19 themselves. That means 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.
CNN: What about visiting another family where parents are vaccinated but the children aren’t?
Wen: Here’s where we get into tricky territory. Grandparents who are vaccinated visiting a family with some unvaccinated members is one thing, but it’s another when it’s two families, each with unvaccinated people, visiting one another.
What we know is that adults are more likely to transmit coronavirus than young children. It’s also worth noting that teens appear to transmit coronavirus at the same rate as adults. If people who are unvaccinated are gathering, there is risk of them acquiring and transmitting Covid-19.
For now, while the United States has a high baseline level of coronavirus circulating, 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.
Try to be outdoors at all times. If people must be ind