Although many parents can breathe easy with their own vaccines, it can be difficult to feel really free, as long as their children have not been vaccinated. It is the children who need to play in the playground, socialize with colleagues and friends and go out without their parents worrying all the time.
How should vaccinated parents approach decisions about play dates, going to restaurants and vacations while their children are not vaccinated? CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, also participates.
CNN: This is a long way off. Will children be able to go back to school to receive face-to-face classes in the fall?
It will be important that all teachers, school staff and parents are vaccinated in the fall. This helps to further reduce transmission in the community and protects those who still cannot be vaccinated, especially children.
CNN: In the meantime, many parents are being vaccinated. What is your advice for them? Can they be visited by their grandparents if the children are not vaccinated?
Wen: Vaccinating parents is very important. This reduces your own chance of disease and also reduces the likelihood of transmitting the coronavirus to people around you, including your children. It also makes visits by other family members safer. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that fully vaccinated people may visit another family in which not everyone has been vaccinated, as long as those who have not yet been vaccinated are not at high risk for serious illness caused by Covid-19. This means that there is no problem for grandparents to visit their children and grandchildren and stay with them, have dinner with them at home, hug them and not wear masks.
CNN: How about visiting another family where the parents are vaccinated, but the children are not?
Wen: This is where we enter complicated territory. Grandparents who are vaccinated visiting a family with some unvaccinated members is one thing, but it is another when there are two families, each with unvaccinated people, visiting each other.
What we do know is that adults are more likely to transmit the coronavirus than children. It is also important to note that adolescents appear to transmit the coronavirus at the same rate as adults. If unvaccinated people are meeting, there is a risk of acquiring and transmitting Covid-19.
For now, although the United States has a high level of coronavirus base circulating, it is best that families with any unvaccinated individual see themselves only outdoors, with members of different families spaced 1.8m apart. If children are playing together and cannot always support more than 6 feet distancing, they should be wearing masks.
Try to be outdoors all the time. If people need to be inside the house, they must wear masks on each other. And take extra care if your child has latent medical problems. Again, wearing masks for them and everyone around them is really crucial.
CNN: Are there any circumstances in which families with children can get together safely? What if three families want to rent a house together?
Wen: If there are three families, all with unvaccinated children, who want to be together for a long period of time and want to be in a shared space like a home, I suggest that they all quarantine and test. Specifically, I advise that the unvaccinated members of each family reduce the risk for seven days and then get tested, or reduce the risk 14 days before the meeting, if the test is not readily available.
What that means is no other encounter, especially at home, during this period. My advice here is that those who are vaccinated probably do not need to be tested, as the likelihood of contracting and transmitting the coronavirus is very low. But, very cautiously, before an in-house meeting, I still encourage vaccinated individuals to reduce their risk in this period as well.
CNN: How about going to restaurants? Should the parents go alone or can I bring the children?
Wen: I think it is important to clarify that there is virtually nothing that is 100% safe. It all comes down to understanding the relative risk and then trying to assess the risk and manage it for each family.
Takeaway food will be even safer, followed by an outdoor meal. Indoor dining still presents some degree of risk. The risk for vaccinated parents is much less than before they were fully vaccinated. He is well so that people assess their risks and decide that, after vaccination, they want to enjoy some of their pre-pandemic activities. Parents who wish to go to restaurants from time to time should do so and try to be outdoors. If dining in a closed environment, choose places that have strict safety protocols, including spacing between tables and good ventilation.
It is the individual decision of the family to bring unvaccinated children for these circumstances. The risk is not zero, but probably very low in open-air restaurants. At home, this risk will be greater. I would be especially cautious if there is a child who is immunosuppressed or has additional risk factors for severe Covid-19.
CNN: How about going to birthday parties? Does it matter if all the parents in those places have been vaccinated?
Wen: I would certainly feel better with a birthday party where I know that all the parents of the children present have been vaccinated, because the chance of someone being asymptomatic Covid-19 is very low. Still, given the number of unvaccinated children there, I would not like to meet indoors. I would still make sure that the meeting takes place outdoors and that there is at least 6 feet of distance between families. Everyone should wear masks. The same goes for game dates, family reunions and other gatherings.
CNN: Many parents want to travel with their children in the summer. Is that safe?
Wen: This is another situation in which we have to talk about relative risk. A car trip is low risk. Air travel also presents a very low risk, as long as everyone is masked. My biggest concern with the trip is not so much the risk during transit, but what people are doing at their destination. If all meals have to be in restaurants, this substantially increases the risk. On the other hand, if you plan to cook or make takeaway food, the risk is much less. The same applies to the activities that you carry out during the trip. Going to crowded amusement parks and cinemas is a far greater risk than hiking and camping on vacation. A large family reunion or wedding will be more risky than a small meeting just with grandparents.
At this point in the pandemic, we need to move to the concept of weighing the risk and then trying to reduce it as much as possible. Having parents vaccinated is an important step in reducing the risk, even if the children have not yet been vaccinated, but there are still measures that must be taken to protect the children – and everyone around us – of Covid-19.