Young children belong to a population segment which hasn’t been vaccinated, and with reason: no vaccines have been authorized for children under 12. Many parents feel divided on the subject. Some would like to offer some form of protection for them, others fear that the vaccine could have some long lasting effect on them.
Traveling with children ought to be a subject of discussion at home. What are the risks for children, and how to mitigate them?
When it comes to young children, mainly two types of risk should be evaluated: the risk of getting sick, and the risk of transmission to others. Children may develop severe disease from Covid-19 but so far the statistics have shown that it’s less common than in adults. It is important to note, however, that children do die from Covid-19. According to CNN, there have been nearly 500 deaths in children 17 years of age and younger in the US. Plus there are those who might be affected the the effects that come after one has recovered from Covid-19.
On the other hand, even if they experience mild to no symptoms, children can still be carriers. They can transmit to relatives. According to CNN, the rate of child-to-adult transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is roughly half the rate of adult-to-child transmission. Certainly not negligible.
A risk factor to consider when choosing a particular destination is of course the rate of Covid-19 cases, but also the incidence of delta variant in that community. Looking at those numbers could tell you how likely it is that you can feel safe going to places of essential need such as a supermarket, a bakery, or a food hall.
The effects a particular vaccine may have on avoiding contagion have not yet been determined. According to Bloomberg, some vaccines might be able to reduce the viral load in case a person happens to come into contact with an infected person, thus reducing the possibility of becoming infected herself.
Several reports have shown lately that the highest Covid-19 infection rates is being reported in communities with low vaccination rates. Parents can evaluate the vaccination and infection rate of the destinations they are considering to visit. In the US, the CDC offers this information. In the EU, the same data could be found in the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control’s website.
Traveling by plane, though faster, poses a number of challenges when it comes to risk mitigation. In airports, individuals are exposed to many people, potentially from different parts of the world. And it’s indoors. Risk is technically reduced by the requirement to wear masks indoors but on the plane it might be a different story. Some passengers might not abide by the rules all the time. Although outbreaks have been associated with air travel, the cases have been rare, perhaps because of the PCR/antigen test requirement that most parts of the world have been implementing during the pandemic.
Once on site, the chances of encountering other people will remain. It’s important to bear in mind that if you are near many people for several hours, the risk is greater than if you are near a few people for a short time. If almost everyone you’ll come into contact with is vaccinated, the risk will be low.
A good practice to keep in mind is that being outdoors is safer because the virus disperses more rapidly. Inside, concentrations of the virus can be higher as the viral load can hang in the air for some time. The recommendation has to nonetheless be evaluated with nuance.
Even if outdoors, sitting near other people for an extended period of time could become riskier, especially if people aren’t wearing masks and the vaccination rate among other people is low. This could happen at a music festival or a sports match, for instance. In the case of children, playing baseball or football will be safer than Twister, where close contact is the norm.