So your family is ready for a change of scenery, and the adults and older teens are fully vaccinated. But what if your younger child is still waiting on their COVID-19 vaccine?
Before you make any spring or summer travel plans, Connecticut Children’s infectious disease expert John R. Schreiber, MD, MPH, has guidance.
*(Originally published in May of 2021. Updated May 11, 2022 for accuracy.)
Before planning a family vacation with a child who isn’t vaccinated, weigh the risks.
The CDC advises that unvaccinated children use caution when traveling and wear a mask indoors when COVID community spread levels are high.
If your family is considering taking a trip, you should think carefully about three things:
1. Your child’s risk factors
2. Your destination’s risk factors, and;
3. Your comfort level with all of it.
1. Consider your child’s risk factors for COVID-19.
If so, it may make sense to take a rain check on travel until your child is fully vaccinated. Otherwise, your family vacation could expose them to people and situations where the virus and its variants spread more easily. If travel is necessary, then use appropriate precautions like mask-wearing indoors, separating from other people if there is a crowd outdoors, and avoiding indoor events that are in a poorly ventilated building.
2. Consider your travel destination’s COVID-19 risks.
- What is the community spread of COVID-19? Do your research, and avoid any places that are experiencing surges, if possible.
- How will you get there? Domestic air travel is now considered low risk for fully vaccinated individuals, but that’s not the case for unvaccinated kids. Shorter drives are your family’s safest bet for transportation during the pandemic, since you’ll have control over your environment except for one or two brief rest stops. Airplanes, trains, cruises and buses are higher risk, since your unvaccinated child could be in close proximity to other unmasked people, sometimes for hours.
- Are your planned activities relatively low risk? If you can plan ahead for timed museum passes that allow for social distancing, or outdoor activities like hiking on a less-traveled trail, you can minimize the risk of your child coming into contact with COVID-19.
- Will your family have a private place to stay? The fewer people that unvaccinated kids come into close, extended contact with, the better. So ideally, opt to stay at a private vacation rental or the home of a fully vaccinated loved one. If you’re headed to a resort or hotel, make sure you can take precautions to stay distanced from other guests, whether that’s in the lobby or around the elevators.
3. Consider your own comfort level with travel risks.
Your family may have lots of reasons they want to travel this spring and summer – among them, the chance to see long-distance (vaccinated) loved ones, or just to have an adventure after so much time stuck at home. If you can take the right precautions to control the risks, that choice may make sense for your family.
Or you may weigh the options and decide to wait until your child is fully vaccinated. That’s always your safest choice, and there are lots of ways to recreate travel experiences at home. It’s important to stay cautious and within your comfort zone.
Travel or not, start preparing for a COVID-19 vaccine for your child.
While most kids experience only mild illness with COVID-19, it’s possible for some children to become very sick or even die.
So whether you’re at home or on vacation, please make sure any unvaccinated kids continue masking, social distancing and handwashing – and plan on getting their COVID-19 vaccine as soon as one becomes available for their age range.
Stay safe and healthy.