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Is It Finally Time for Parents With Small Kids to Think About Travel Again?

Children younger than 5 may be able to get vaccinated soon.

For two years, parents have been making choices to protect their kids. Limiting contact with the unvaccinated, keeping them safe at home, switching to online classes, forming bubbles, and increasing testing—the burden of making safe choices has been heavy and overwhelming. Constantly changing rules, new community infections every few months, different recommendations from experts, states, and schools haven’t made it any easier either.

So, it will come as a relief to parents of kids under 5 years of age that a vaccine may soon be available for kids as young as 6 months. Pfizer and BioNTech are seeking emergency use authorization for the two-dose vaccine for kids 6 months to 4 years. According to the company, “This application is for authorization of the first two 3µg doses of a planned three-dose primary series in this age group.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci said in January that younger children will likely get three doses because two shots didn’t induce an adequate immune response in 2- to 4-year-olds in Pfizer’s clinical trials. For context, those who are 12 and older receive 30µg (microgram) per dose and kids from 5-11 get 10µg per dose. 

CNN reported that the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee is expected to meet on February 15 to discuss this request. There are several steps before the vaccine is actually made available to this vulnerable age group, but it’s positive news for parents who have been hunkering down to keep their children safe.

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Why It’s Important for Younger Kids to Be Vaccinated

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over 3.5 million child cases were reported in January 2022, and over 11.4 million children have tested positive since the pandemic began—that’s about 18.6% of all cases.

Adults have been getting their doses since December 2020, then eventually everyone older than 5 years had vaccines accessible to them. Kids younger than 5 are the only age group that doesn’t have an approved vaccine. In addition, experts don’t recommend masks for children younger than 2. With the Omicron variant spreading exponentially in the U.S. and the rise in hospitalization of children, it has been a stressful time for parents, especially of younger kids who have had very few options. 

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC, suggested, “For our youngest children, those who are not yet eligible for vaccination, it’s critically important that we surround them with people who are vaccinated to provide them protection.” This means their older siblings, parents, and any other adults around them. 

And as soon as they are eligible for the vaccine, kids should get their shots, too.

Can We Travel With Kids Now?

Wait until everyone is fully vaccinated and boosted to feel less stressed about traveling. The vaccine approval will take a few weeks and you should make an appointment as soon as it’s announced that it’s available. It will first be approved for two doses, three weeks apart, and a third dose may be administered after another approval from the FDA. 

Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer, said, “Ultimately, we believe that three doses of the vaccine will be needed for children 6 months through 4 years of age to achieve high levels of protection against current and potential future variants. If two doses are authorized, parents will have the opportunity to begin a COVID-19 vaccination series for their children while awaiting potential authorization of a third dose.” 

It’s still to be seen if the third dose will be considered a booster and if countries change their guidelines for children. 

There are countries where you can still travel with unvaccinated babies and toddlers, even if parents are required to be fully vaccinated. It’s about personal risk as it has been all through the pandemic. For parents who have avoided family gatherings, indoor settings, and personal travels to reduce the risk of infection, it looks like there may be an end in sight. 

Fodor’s managing editor Rachael Levitt understands the challenges and sacrifices of raising a baby during this scary pandemic. Her two-year-old girl will be eligible for the vaccine when it’s approved. “We’re finally going to put that baby passport to use,” she says. “The countdown is on.”