CINCINNATI — Young children’s continued vulnerability to COVID-19 means that American parents may have to plan a safety-oriented summer one more time.
“I think families have to decide what their comfort level is related to wearing masks, related to bringing their children out in more public places,” said Dr. Mary Carol Burkhardt, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, on Monday.
Although millions of adults in the United States have been fully vaccinated for months, children up to age 11 are still waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to approve the vaccine for their age group. They've been lower-priority patients for much of the pandemic, which was sparked by an illness that becomes markedly more dangerous as the patient's age increases. Seniors got first dibs on the approved vaccines over the winter; the clinical trials that will measure the vaccine’s safety and efficacy for children remain ongoing.
Burkhardt’s own family, which includes children too young for a shot, takes extra steps out in public in the meantime.
“We are more cautious,” she said. “We do wear masks, because I don’t want to put my kids at risk.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorses that kind of caution, according to its official materials for parents. Summer 2021 should be one in which activities “occur outside as much as possible” and families stay wary of large indoor crowds.
Jackie Amador and her two sons, ages 2 and 3, are having an outdoor summer already. She believes the boys caught COVID-19 in 2020, but she’s still picky about where her family hangs out indoors.
For her own peace of mind, Amador prefers parks, playgrounds and pools that control crowd size.
“We stay outside, mostly, (and) pretty much only do outdoor stuff,” she said.
Burkhardt said every family with young children must make its own call about COVID-19 comfort .
"Certainly, the most cautious approach is going to be avoid crowded places and continue wearing masks,” she said. “Families have to make that decision for themselves."