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Kids Too Young For COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What's Safe And What Is Not

 June 10, 2021 at 12:40 PM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 What the summer months upon us and COVID restrictions, easing many families are looking forward to summer trips and getting back together with friends and family. But how safe is that for children who are still too young to get the vaccine clinical trials for children under 12 years of age are still being reviewed with a significant portion of the population. Preparing to ditch masks on the 15th. Many are also concerned about what precautions we should take for un-vaccinated children who have to keep their masks on joining me now with more as Dr. Kerryn McDaniels Davidson, the director of the Institute for public health at San Diego state university, Dr. McDaniels Davidson. Welcome. Speaker 2: 00:38 Thank you so much for having me. Is Speaker 1: 00:40 It safe? Travel with a child who's not eligible for the vaccine yet? Speaker 2: 00:45 So everyone has their own level of risk that they're willing to take on for themselves and their families for my family and myself. I'm not yet willing to travel with my unvaccinated children on planes. For example, especially with my infant, who's not able to mask yet. We are willing though, to take driving trips to locations that are in driving distance and this calculus would change. Of course, if there was an emergency or a something where I needed to be somewhere far away, we would absolutely feel okay, getting on a plane for that. Should Speaker 1: 01:14 We still be wearing masks around unvaccinated children masks Speaker 2: 01:17 Are going to continue to be important, especially around unvaccinated children indoors. And when you're with people outside of your household and outside when there is a lot of people around and distancing isn't possible. Speaker 1: 01:29 And is it safe for unvaccinated children to be out on the playground together? Speaker 2: 01:34 Absolutely. For my children, for example, I'm a, I'm a mom ended up at genealogist. And so I have both of those lenses with me at all times. And so I encourage my children to play on the playground. If it's a crowded playground, a one just opened up by our house. For example, in, there are a lot of kids around. We do wear masks when, when distancing isn't possible outdoors. Speaker 1: 01:55 What about schools and daycares and summer camps? Speaker 2: 01:59 So there are certainly ways to make schools safer and CDC has put out some really great guidance on keeping schools safer. And in San Diego that's made a lot easier by our mild climate. So we can throw open those windows and the doors to improve ventilation, which turns out is key for COVID transmission. And when we are able to cohort children or keep them in stable groups together, that's also really helpful and reduces the impact to learning when there is a case. And then there's HEPA filters that can clean the air and regular testing of students can be really important. Speaker 1: 02:32 What do you think about that? CDC guidance on masks? I mean, given, they're still a portion of the population who can't get the vaccine yet. Is it too early for everyone to take them? Speaker 2: 02:42 This one was hard for me as a public health person. We focus on populations in public health and we, we especially have a hyper focus on equity. And what we know is that there are communities that are behind in vaccinations, and those are kind of due to persistent access issues or questions and concerns that still feel unheard or unaddressed. And those communities tend to also be the ones who are in those essential work jobs, where they come into contact with many others who now may or may not be wearing masks if they're un-vaccinated. And so now's the time to redouble our efforts with those communities and make sure we're reaching everyone and having those conversations about the vaccine that everyone deserves to have Speaker 1: 03:23 Babies and small children can't wear masks, correct. Speaker 2: 03:26 That's right. So the CDC recommends that children over the age of two wear the wear masks. Now, similar to why we don't put children down in their cribs or their best nets with blankets. We, we worry about those breathing issues because they tend to be shallow breathers, which is why we don't want to put masks on infants, but I have an 18 month old and she wants to be just like her big brother and big sister. And so she has a little mask and she'll try it on and take it off and try it on and take it off. And that's fine to do. And then once she's two years old, then she'll start wearing her mask as well. Speaker 1: 04:00 You know, given that those two and under really can't wear a mask. I mean, is it safe for them to even be out running errands with mom and dad to the grocery store? Let's say, Speaker 2: 04:09 I tend to leave my kids behind when I go to the grocery store, but I understand that's a luxury that a lot of people don't necessarily have. Another thing that folks can do is, um, do the grocery store pickup where they, they opened the trunk of their car and the folks at the grocery store bring the groceries to them. But again, that's not a luxury that everyone has access to. And so when there is a need, you have to weigh the need for food and the potential exposure. And just maybe limit the time that you have in there, or take advantage if a neighbor or a friend offers a half an hour of babysitting. So you could go to the grocery store, but I wouldn't shame people who need to bring their children with them because everyone has a different life situation. Speaker 1: 04:49 Can some immunity be passed on to a baby through the breast milk of a vaccinated mother? Speaker 2: 04:55 No, the antibodies are present in the breast milk of vaccinated people about two weeks after they received their vaccine. And the thought now is that there is some protection passed through the breast milk. But as I mentioned, there are ongoing studies that are looking at that and we don't have the data yet to know, but there are anecdotal stories from within those studies about household outbreaks, where older children who are not nursing being infected, but not the nursing who is, um, nursing from their protected mother. I'm a nursing mother myself. And I'm incredibly interested in that line of research though. Speaker 1: 05:28 What if the mother gets vaccinated while the baby is in utero? Uh, do we know how much immunity is passed on then? Speaker 2: 05:35 Sure. So studies out of Cornell and New York Presbyterian hospital show that for babies who are born after a mom has two doses, about 99% of them had protective antibodies for COVID, which is really great. But studies are ongoing about how long that immunity might last. Speaker 1: 05:50 What are the risks of lingering effects on children who do get COVID-19 Speaker 2: 05:55 There's so much we don't yet about COVID and children, especially because they've been largely protected by our efforts over the last year and a half or so, but there are certainly concerns. So one of the concerns that is being watched is the conversion to, um, type one diabetes after viral infection. And that looks to be, uh, relatively highly associated with COVID infection. And that does happen in other viral infections, but to a lesser degree. And this is a lifelong condition that these children are going to have to live with and deal with. And so I would say that that's concerning and we don't yet understand the risks of long COVID in children and younger adults. We're seeing memory issues and things like that. And there, there may be overlaps with Kawasaki's linked diseases, heart conditions, but to be Frank, we're just not sure yet. Do you know Speaker 1: 06:47 How soon the vaccine may be available for children under 12? Speaker 2: 06:51 I understand the vaccine makers will be submitting their data to the FDA for children under 12 in September. I believe that's the most recent thing that I heard. And so I'd expect a ruling in October. Speaker 1: 07:04 So in short, if you have children under 12 living in your household, do you act like we're still in a pandemic or do you act like we're out of the pandemic? Okay. So Speaker 2: 07:13 I act like I'm still in a pandemic, even though San Diego county overall is doing really well. There are still pockets of unvaccinated people and especially children. And so when you get those unvaccinated people together, or when there are a lot in one place, we call that a susceptible population, meaning that they can be infected and infection can spread and create these little outbreaks. And so for my children, what we're practicing is infection control even at home and even in preparation for school next year, so that they have that consistency in their lives, Speaker 1: 07:46 Restrictions, ease. Should people still hold tight to those, uh, pandemic restrictions or is it okay to ease them? If you have children in the house who are unvaccinated? Like I mentioned Speaker 2: 07:59 Earlier, uh, schools can absolutely be safe even during a pandemic, especially when, um, local spread is low, the way it is in San Diego county right now. And so with ventilation and masking children can absolutely be in school even during a pandemic. I've Speaker 1: 08:15 Been speaking with Corrine McDaniels, Davidson, director of SDSU Institute for public health core. And thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.

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While parents await further guidance on vaccinating children under 12, many are wondering what social precautions must be taken as California prepares to reopen on June 15.
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