Over 14 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Florida, but for now, the vaccines are only available to people 16 and older. Without an approved vaccine for children, many parents are asking, “What’s safe for my child if I’m vaccinated, but they’re not?”
It’s a question Ryan Cantville, DO, pediatrician with Jacksonville Pediatrics and Wolfson Children’s Hospital and president of the Northeast Florida Pediatric Society, receives frequently. It’s also something the father of two children, ages 6 and 4, has faced at home.
“Building a safe cocoon around your family is important,” said Dr. Cantville, whose son is immunocompromised. “Parents should receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Getting a vaccine protects others in your household and models good behavior for kids when they are able to receive one.”
Dr. Cantville encourages parents to weigh risk versus benefit when considering gathering with others. These questions can help assess risk:
- Are all children up-to-date on routine vaccines?
- How many people will be there?
- Will the children be outside?
- Will the children be wearing masks?
- Have the families limited interaction with others?
- Is everyone feeling well with no symptoms of COVID-19?
Is it time for a birthday bash?
Having a packed birthday party with kids blowing out candles on a communal cake was a big “no-no” in 2020, but what about in 2021?
“Fewer children have been severely sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, but children can still spread COVID-19,” explained Dr. Cantville. “And multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), an illness associated with COVID-19 that typically occurs weeks after an infection, is rare but can be very serious.”
If a child is healthy and the parents are vaccinated, a small birthday party with three or four kids is relatively safe. Wearing masks or hosting the party outside greatly reduces the risk of transmission of COVID-19. These recommendations apply to play dates, as well.
Can we play at the park?
Because the CDC determined the risk of surface transmission of COVID-19 is low, going to the park is a low-risk activity.
“Allowing socialization for our children is so critical,” said Dr. Cantville. “Nationally, we’ve seen cases of mental health issues skyrocket during the pandemic. So, allow your kids to socialize but in a safe setting. Encourage them to keep their masks on, wash their hands and keep hands away from their face.”
Can we hug grandma?
“We’ve all missed our grandparents and older relatives,” said Dr. Cantville. “If grandparents are fully vaccinated and children are low-risk and healthy, they can visit each other and give hugs again.”
Can we dine out?
If parents have been vaccinated, it’s safest to have a date night out alone or with other vaccinated adults, especially if the restaurant seating is inside.
“I’m all for supporting our local restaurants and coffee shops, but make smart choices and pick a place with outdoor seating if you are bringing the kids, or get the food to go,” said Dr. Cantville.
Where can we travel?
We’re all craving a vacation after a year of being locked in, but it’s not time to jet set with unvaccinated kids yet.
Dr. Cantville recommends traveling in a car instead of an airplane. If parents need to fly to visit family or loved ones, they should make sure they’re vaccinated, wear a mask, and practice good hand hygiene.
The finish line
While initial clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines only included healthy adults, trials have started for children and babies as young as 6 months.
“The science shows these vaccines are safe and effective for adults,” said Dr. Cantville. “The science is going to show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for kids as well, we just need to wait for the data. My wife, who is also a pediatrician, and I both feel confident about this. We were in the Pfizer study for adults, and our daughter is going to be included in the study for kids. The risk is minimal; the benefit is huge.”
The timeline for when vaccines will be available for kids is still to be determined, but Dr. Cantville believes it will be before the end of 2021.
“When the vaccine is available for kids, get them vaccinated. Let’s close this chapter in history.”
At Baptist Health, we want to help keep our community informed about COVID-19. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines visit baptistjax.com/covid19vaccine. For questions about COVID-19 symptoms, call 904.302.5050.