Aug 2, 2021

A lot of parents of younger children are now asking themselves a big question. I'm vaccinated against COVID, but my kids are too young for the vaccine. Can I let them play with their friends again? Do they have to wear a mask?

Kids have usually seemed to fare better with COVID than adults. But we know this isn't always the case. There are those kids who get COVID and then are affected by MIS-C, the multi-inflammatory system complication that will land a child in the intensive care unit. That is seriously scary. And that's why so many of us pediatricians worry about kids around COVID.

Another big concern has been that younger children would bring the virus home to vulnerable adult family members, and those would be the ones who would become significantly ill. So now that many places are not requiring masks anymore and places are opening up, it puts many parents in a situation where they're not sure what to do with younger kids. These kids have missed a whole year or more of socialization with friends and are really wanting to get back to playing.

The current recommendations are that if a person is not vaccinated, they should continue to wear a mask. That said, if your child is playing outside with friends that you trust and who have also been following precautions, it may be okay to let the kids play outside without masks on. There is evidence that kids who play outdoors have a low risk of being infected. There are also a lot of summer camps now, where masks are still being required. But they offer a lot of fun activities for kids who are too young to be vaccinated.

Adolescents ages 12 and up can be vaccinated now. My kids are both fully vaccinated now, and it was their choice, especially knowing that next year there will be no masks in junior high or high school in our area. They asked a lot of good questions about the vaccine and understood the science behind the vaccine. They both said it was such a relief to know that they are now protected. Vaccine trials are now underway for kids older than six months old at the time I'm recording this. The current projections are that kids ages 5 to 11 may be able to be vaccinated as early as September. And kids ages six months to four years may be able to be vaccinated by next spring.

The more people around your child who are vaccinated, the safer they will be. The bottom line is this is a choice your family needs to make. Are others in your family at high risk? Do you know who your kids are playing with? Are they outside? Is anyone sick? Or has anyone been exposed to COVID within days of the playdate? There is hope in sight for the youngest population, and science is working as fast as possible to get everything back to normal as quickly as we can.

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