Have you received your COVID-19 vaccine yet? With the massive vaccine rollout over the past several months, most people who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in our country have been able to receive one. That is great news for so many of us who have been waiting for a glimmer of light amid this long, dark pandemic.
Because of the wide availability of vaccines, our country is practically now wide open, almost to pre-pandemic functioning. If you are anything like me, you are excited that there is hope to get your life back to normal. Summertime is right around the corner, which means it is time for vacations, weddings, family reunions, and more. It has been such a long time since we have been able to commune together with the ones we love. And getting vaccinated should allow us all to feel a little more comfortable going back to our regular activities.
Especially since the CDC now says so.
Newest CDC guidelines
The most recent CDC guidelines state that if you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did before the pandemic without wearing a mask or staying six feet apart. Travel is also a little easier if you are vaccinated since you do not have to be tested before or after travel within the United States. And you no longer have to self-quarantine after traveling within our boundaries.
While this is fantastic news for us as adults, as a mother and a Pediatrician, I cannot help but to ask:
What about our children?
I am beyond excited about the vaccines, but I am a little uneasy with the newest CDC guidelines since I worry about my children and the young patients I serve. My husband, my 16-year-old daughter, and I are fully vaccinated. And my 12-year-old son recently received his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. There is some relief in knowing that we are protected, but I still have three younger children at home who are not vaccinated because none of the vaccines are approved for their ages just yet.
Because our family is not fully protected, we are still cautious when it comes to COVID-19. We have returned to some activities – like dance and gymnastics- which we try to do as safely as possible (albeit with risk involved). But, we are still avoiding playdates, hanging out with large groups, or going to crowded places. We are doing most things just within our family unit and only visiting close relatives we trust. Masks remain a must for all of us when we go out.
Still So Much Uncertainty
The reason we are still taking precautions is because there is still so much about COVID-19 that we just do not know. From the recent studies, we know that the COVID-19 vaccines on the market effectively prevent COVID-19 disease – especially severe illness and death. The vaccines are also expected to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. The problem, though, is that we do not know how long the protection lasts for those who have been vaccinated. Though the vaccines have recently been shown to be quite effective against most of the new variants, we are learning they are not as effective for those who are immunocompromised.
When it comes to children, the long-term consequences of COVID-19 in their population are still unknown. Our children may do well now, but we do not know who will be affected in the long-run, or what those effects might be. And with so many adults now going maskless because of the newest CDC guidelines, it is hard to know who has really been vaccinated. Because of this, I now feel much less comfortable going out with my own children – even though we are still wearing masks and keeping our distance.
What should you do with your children?
Children all over the country have suffered this year because of the pandemic, missing out on in-person school and activities. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stressed the educational and social importance of children returning to school, and I agree with this recommendation as long as it is done safely.
Here are a few recommendations to follow for your kids until they can all be fully vaccinated:
- If you are choosing to send your children to camp this summer, check to make sure the camp is following the appropriate guidelines – including mask-wearing, hand washing, sanitizing, and limiting capacity. I would be cautious about having your children around maskless adults, even if the adults are vaccinated.
- If you choose to travel this summer, select locations that have limited capacity. Beach getaways, visits to national parks, road trips, or camping adventures are a few safe alternatives.
- If airline travel is a must, be sure to wear your masks, wash your hands often, and sanitize surfaces around you the best you can.
- For family gatherings, this summer, continue to wear a mask and practice proper hygiene to decrease your family’s risk of virus spread.
I know you want to get your life back to normal. But when you are planning your summer activities, please remember those around you who cannot be vaccinated. Yes, the mandates and recommendations are changing, but that does not mean we have to make drastic changes in our own lives. Every step that we take towards getting our lives back to normal will have its risks. But it is better to take it slowly until everyone has the opportunity to be vaccinated or we reach a level of herd immunity. There is no harm in continuing to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and avoid crowded places until we get through this together.
As for me, I will continue to wear my mask when I am out, and my children will, too. I am comfortable going maskless around family and close friends who have been vaccinated, and I will be much more comfortable going maskless once all of my children are protected. Putting our children’s lives at risk is something that we should try to avoid at all costs.
Petra McEwan, MD, FAAP, IBCLC, is a practicing Pediatrician and Lactation Consultant in South Florida, where she lives with her husband and five kids. She is also a Women in White Coats Fellow. On her website, https://www.wifeymommydoc.com, she helps working wives and moms balance their many roles. She can be followed on Instagram and Facebook @wifeymommydoc.