Birthday parties, graduations, weddings, restaurants…so many things we have longed for during the pandemic are returning, and all of them bring an opportunity to interact with other people. During the pandemic, children had to forgo many of these interactions that bring them joy, enhance their development and promote socialization. For me, finding ways to increase these opportunities for my children is a priority. With this focus in mind, the question naturally arises of how to navigate these events with young children who are not yet eligible for vaccination. As the mother of two young daughters, age 4 and 7, their father and I are increasingly having to evaluate these complex decisions.
While there is no perfect or one-size-fits-all answer, the available science provides guidance that aids in determining which gatherings are safer. Here are the things I consider when deciding about taking my unvaccinated children to an event:
- Is the event indoors or outdoors? Outdoor events are substantially safer.
- Are the adults and adolescents at the event vaccinated? If all of the people who are eligible to be vaccinated are two weeks past their final vaccine dose, this provides protection for the children who are not yet able to be vaccinated.
- Are the overall rates of COVID-19 in the area high or low? Lower rates are certainly preferable.
- How many people are attending the event? The larger the number of people, the higher the risk.
I recognize that each family will have a different risk tolerance when making these decisions, and over time, that risk tolerance can change. Nevertheless, this framework allows me to make reasonable decisions about attending functions with my young children by weighing the risk of the event against the benefits the event will afford my family.
As pandemic conditions change, and hopefully continue to improve, I encourage you to have open discussions with family/friends/pediatricians about the ways in which you can make events safer for unvaccinated children. Finally, the best thing you can do to protect your children is to ensure that the members of your family who are eligible for the vaccine receive it, because vaccination is the key to ending the pandemic.
About the Author
Board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, Dr. Shea Osburn joined Valley Children’s as a pediatric hospitalist in 2011. She serves in a number of leadership and advisory roles for Valley Children’s Hospital, including committees for patient safety, evidence-based practice and high value care: providing the best care possible to each patient by using resources efficiently and effectively.