Although COVID-19 vaccines offer relief from some of the risks and worries of the past 18 months, parents with young children find themselves in a delicate gray zone.
“One of the hardest parts about being a parent right now is feeling like even though you’re vaccinated and ready to celebrate that, you’re still living with one foot in the unvaccinated world,” says Keri Althoff, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.
“Even though parents have become very accustomed to this decision-making, it can still be very exhausting. I did not cry tears of joy when I got vaccinated myself, but I will cry those tears of joy and relief when our kids get vaccinated.”
It could be months before the US FDA grants authorization for vaccines for children under 12 years old, as trials remain ongoing. (Recently, Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, predicted that younger children may be eligible by Thanksgiving). For many parents, that means a waiting game.
Althoff recently suggested “north stars” for parental decision-making during these tricky times. The best way to protect your child? Getting vaccinated yourself, Althoff says.
“Vaccinated individuals are not only less likely to become infected with COVID-19, but evidence also suggests they’re less likely to transmit the virus if they do become infected,” she says. “Beyond that, it’s continual monitoring of your child’s potential exposures and making decisions based on risks that are reasonable for the children and the household.
“None of this is easy, and there are rarely black-and-white answers,” she says. “But parents have been resilient in this pandemic, and are well-versed in complex decision-making that’s right for their families. Parents need to give themselves grace and flexibility, as do their employers and their communities.”
Here, she offers opinions on the risks associated with typical summer activities for young kids and shares how she and her own half-vaccinated family are navigating through it:
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