The long-awaited COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11 are finally here! You’ve waited the appropriate five weeks for the vaccine to be fully effective. Now what? What should you feel comfortable with them doing? Can they finally remove those masks?
The short answer is, once fully vaccinated, it’s certainly a possibility. But as COVID-19 has shown us time and again, it’s not a simple virus. The answers are always complicated and the virus is constantly changing.
Continue Masking Until Fully Vaccinated
First, let me say thank you for getting your child vaccinated! This is one of the most effective (and safe!) ways to protect your child against COVID-19. We are encouraged by the enthusiasm for vaccinating this age group. Within the first week it was available, more than 1 million children in the U.S. received it. Similarly, we had an amazing turnout at Cincinnati Children’s clinics.
Second, I want to encourage those children who have gotten their first or second doses to continue to mask until they are fully vaccinated. That means waiting two weeks after the second dose, or five weeks after the first dose. About 14 days after the first dose children have about 70% protection; the full protection of 90-95% doesn’t happen until two weeks after the second dose. Therefore, it may take until January or February until the majority of kids who get vaccinated have peak protection against the virus.
Once that happens, I think parents can feel much more comfortable with their children removing their masks in some situations. With the decreasing number of cases and the increased vaccination rates, Governor DeWine changed the recommendations for masking. It’s called mask to stay, test to play. Below is a brief description. The full recommendations can be found on ODH.Ohio.Gov.
Schools: Mask to Stay
Children who are fully vaccinated, as well as those who consistently wear masks, can remain in the classroom if exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting. Students may remain in class, regardless of masking or vaccination status, if they:
- Wear a mask for 14 days after the last date of exposure
- Self-monitor for symptoms
- Isolate and test if experiencing any symptoms, minor or severe
- Test negative after 5-7 days, can discontinue quarantine if they don’t develop symptoms
Sports/Extracurricular Activities: Test to Play
Kids who may have been exposed, but are asymptomatic, can continue to participate in extracurricular activities, if they:
- Wear a mask when able. This includes while on the team bus, in the locker room, or on the sidelines, so long as it does not interfere with breathing or the activity.
- Test upon notification of the exposure.
- Test again between days 5-7 following exposure. If negative, they will test out of quarantine after day 7 and can resume normal activities.
Dr. Steve Davis recently wrote a blog post about recommendations for the holidays. The brief summary is that children ages 5-11 will not be fully vaccinated before Thanksgiving. However, it is possible that it will happen for some kids before Christmas. If you decide to host a gathering this year, he recommends asking anyone who is not vaccinated to wear a mask indoors.
As with everything related to COVID, things are fluid and recommendations from today may be outdated next week. However, we are making significant strides against the infection and I am confident that will translate to a much safer and happier holiday season and brighter 2022!