As much as we want to stop social distancing, I'm waiting for a safe COVID-19 vaccine for kids.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted the mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people last month, I wanted to feel elated and relieved. But I only felt frustrated, anxious, and confused. I have three children who are ineligible for a vaccine. Any other moms out there feel like shouting "But the pandemic isn't over; young children aren't in the clear just yet!"—or is it just me?
Navigating the CDC's guidance on safe behaviors for fully vaccinated people is clear for adults and teens who have been vaccinated. However, the rules on what vaccinated parents should and shouldn't do with unvaccinated kids are murky.
So while other fully vaccinated adults are booking flights and attending indoor events, I'm still practicing social distancing until my kids are vaccinated.
At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, I was two months pregnant, terrified to do anything that may jeopardize the pregnancy or engage in any outings that put my children, myself, or husband at risk of transmitting COVID-19. We went nowhere and saw no one. It's not ideal for me and my husband to continue with our "COVID-19 way of life" as vaccinated adults, but we know it's the best way to keep our kids safe. With three approved vaccines for adults (Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson Janssen), clearance of one COVID-19 vaccine for young adults 12 years of age and older, and clinical trials underway for children 6 months to 11 years, the finish line is in sight. We just have to wait a little longer.
Until then, we weigh the risks and advantages of every activity as a family before saying yes or no. We're still running our lives the way we've been doing since the start of the pandemic; only now we're vaccinated and have a clearer view of which activities pose less of a risk of transmission. We choose to spend time with friends and family who we know are fully vaccinated, and I happily hand over my son to tias and tios, godparents, and friends who continue to practice COVID-19-safe measures. We say yes to outdoor, masked play dates but say no to indoor activities when masks are not required.
Arguments that children are at less risk of experiencing serious COVID-19 symptoms aren't reassuring to me. Research out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham suggests children do not present with typical COVID-19 symptoms, are at risk for hospitalization and can spread the virus to other children and adults, according to Healio. The study, published in Nature Scientific Reports, which included 12,306 pediatric patients, reports 672 (or 5.5%) of the children were hospitalized due to COVID-19 with 118 (17.6%) requiring critical care and 4.1% (38 pediatric patients) requiring a ventilator.
While we wait for the FDA to approve a vaccine for young kids—which should be in the fall, according to The New York Times—taking care of my childrens' mental health is also a priority, right up there with safety. Our school district implemented a hybrid model early in the school year, which allowed our girls to have that much-needed face-to-face interaction with their peers. Thankfully the district's strict adherence to the CDC school reopening guidelines allowed the girls to have some semblance of normalcy during the pandemic. Now they're back to school full-time and enjoy seeing their friends and teachers. It's been more than one month since our school has reported a student or staff member testing positive for COVID-19, which suggests vaccinations, masking and social distancing do help keep kids safe from the virus even at school.
Thankfully, my girls understand there are certain activities we just are not doing right now. And thankfully, they know there are other things they can do. They never complain about having to wear masks or not attending any of their classmate's birthday parties. Somehow they just get it. Life is not back to normal for us just yet, but there's a glimmer of light at the end of the pandemic-life tunnel. I have hope that someday soon we'll be back to life as usual.