Both mom and dad are vaccinated. But the kiddos (under 12) won’t be vaccinated until 2022. Now what?
Lack of guidance
While there are helpful CDC tips on deciding to go back to school or ensuring a child’s emotional wellbeing, there is zero federal guidance about this very situation. So, we have tough decisions to make.
I threw together some tips grounded in science:
There is risk in everything you and your kids do. Only YOU can outweigh benefit with risk. If you’re unsure, seek guidance from trusted sources, like your child’s healthcare provider.
There’s a small chance you can harbor the virus in your nasal passageway. So, if you want to continue to protect your kids, wear that mask in public. At the grocery store. At the park. At work. Even if no one else is. Own it. This will ensure that you don’t bring the virus back home to your kids.
If you have a kiddo under 1, they’re considered high risk. Your child is also considered high risk if they have:
Genetic, neurologic, or metabolic conditions
Sickle cell disease
Heart disease since birth
Immunosuppression (weakened immune system due to certain medical conditions or being on medications that weaken the immune system)
Medical complexity (children with multiple chronic conditions that affect many parts of the body, or are dependent on technology and other significant supports for daily life)
If your child falls into one of these categories, you should be extra careful.
If you’re going to let your guard down, do it with people that are in your same risk/benefit ratio bubble. For example, have a play date with people you know are careful like you. If you don’t know, then ask.
For now, just assume that every stranger is unvaccinated.
Real world examples
I’ve gotten thousands of messages asking about my behaviors with my girls. So, I thought I would describe some of our daily life activities. All in all, I would say my family is about halfway back to normal.
Context: I’m in Texas where transmission is relatively low. I have a 7 month old and a 23 month old. Both my husband and I are vaccinated. The girls’ grandparents (two of which are high risk) are vaccinated. And, we are lucky enough to have healthy girls. (I had a boy with a severe medical condition, so I feel for you mamas that are in that boat. And I wish I could give you a big hug). I also recognize my privilege: a strong social support network and a flexible job and a supportive husband. I salute all of you that don’t have these things. You are, quite frankly, a rock star.
Both my girls started childcare last month. This was after avoiding it for more than a year due to the pandemic. We trust this child care a LOT. They are COVID19 aware, but not the best at implementing policies on a consistent basis. I wish they were better, but they try.
If my husband and I go out for date night, the grandparents watch them. We’ve consistently had transparent conversations with them. Not only on what to do (and do not to do) with the girls, but also what they are comfortable with (because some of them are high risk).
I had a playdate last weekend for the first time. Two other toddlers, two other vaccinated moms, and one vaccinated non-mom (so 4 adults and 4 kids in total). We stayed outside and drank plenty of wine while keeping our distance (but nothing too awkward). The kids didn’t wear masks (3 of the 4 are still under 2). It was more of a playdate for the moms. And very much needed.
Park: We definitely go to the park. And often. The park isn’t too crowded, but most parents wear masks, which makes me feel so much better. I would say about half the kids do too, but they often fall off. I don’t get too nervous unless the kid is older (12+ years). I don’t clean any of the park equipment, but do give a hand sanitizer squirt to my toddler on our way home. Here are some CDC tips about going to the park.
Farmers market: We go every weekend. But, our little town is SO good with masks. I would say 95% of those at the farmers market wears masks. Even my very anxious, COVID19 shy parents feel comfortable going there. If people didn’t wear masks, I would avoid it.
Grocery store: We try to avoid taking the girls if we can. But, obviously, this is just sometimes not possible.
Restaurants: We go out to eat, but only on patios. Thankfully the Texas weather is forgiving right now.
Religious services: My little family isn’t religious, but I do know a LOT of churches have fantastic services outside. I would feel comfortable going to one if it was outside and people wore masks.
This is probably where I’ll be shunned by my fellow epidemiologists. But, I’m planning a birthday party for my daughter at the end of May. She’s never had a birthday party (thanks to COVID19). I am SO excited. On the invitation I made it clear, though:
Only vaccinated adults (If I knew someone was not healthy enough for the vaccine, I would reach out to them individually)
Keeping it outside
Keeping it small (family and a few family friends). So, if the pandemic gets out of control, it’s easy to cancel last minute. I know they would understand.
My daughter will blow out candles, but I’ll have separate cupcakes for the guests
I’ve taken my girls on a flight to California. This was after their great-grandparents were fully inoculated and could finally meet my youngest. I will say, this was incredibly stressful for me. I guess I just don’t have that much trust in strangers re: COVID19
Choose an airline that you trust. Southwest has been AMAZING in enforcing masks on the plane. When someone took it off or forgot to put one back on after eating, the flight attendants were ON TOP of enforcing the mask policy.
I didn’t pre-clean the tray table, although I probably should have. But, given that my toddler was eating stuff off the floor, I don’t know how much good this would have done if COVID19 was on the surfaces.
The terminals were crowded. So, at baggage claim my husband took the girls outside while I waited for the luggage.
I tried to get my 22 month to wear a mask, but that went as well as you could imagine. I kept my 7 month old close to my chest the entire time.
I’m probably a little more relaxed than I should be with the 7 month old. If people want to hold her, I ask them to wear a mask. The grandparents don’t wear masks with her, and that’s okay by me. I think if she were younger then I would be a lot more cautious.
Unfortunately, I’m not breastfeeding anymore. I wish I were so she could get ALL the amazing COVID19 antibodies. I know this helps ease the minds of my girlfriends that got the vaccine while pregnant or while breastfeeding. It has allowed them to let their guard down a little more than me.
I’m not perfect. No mom is. But we are doing the best we can. I hope this glimpse helps you make informed decisions for your little ones.
PS. Please no mom shaming in the comments. I’ll have a heavy blocking finger for this post.