What Vaccination Approval for 5 to 11 Year Olds Means for Family Travel

The last major group of Americans is now eligible for their COVID-19 shots. On Tuesday afternoon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved pediatric doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The news comes just in time to get the age group partially vaccinated before the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, one of the nation’s busiest travel periods.

“We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky said in a statement. “As a mom, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their pediatrician, school nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated.”

Kids already started rolling up their sleeves Wednesday to get the 10 microgram dose—one third of the adult dosage—which they will also need two shots of 21 days apart.

Overall, kids have been less susceptible to COVID-19 than adults, but there were still 1.9 million cases in kids 5 to 11, including 8,300 hospitalizations and at least 94 deaths, according to the CDC. With that risk, especially during peak periods of variant transmission, parents definitely shifted their pandemic-era travel habits.

“With vaccinations rolling out for younger kids, we do feel more at ease about traveling,”says L.A.-based publicist Kannie Yu LaPack, who has a 7- and 10-year-old. “Previously, we would only travel to places where we can mostly be outdoors like national parks and Lake Arrowhead, but with vaccinations more widely adopted, we do feel more comfortable putting kids on planes to branch out to other places.”

That’s been the widespread sentiment as Dr. Lynn Minnaert, academic chair of New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, says that the 2021 U.S. Family Travel Survey she authored with the Family Travel Association showed that “for many families with younger children, the fact that kids were not vaccinated was a major concern.”

Before any form of inoculation was available last holiday season, many skipped their normal getaways. “The advent of the vaccines has already given many families the green light and renewed confidence to travel again, especially to spend time with those loved ones who they may not have been with in person for quite some time,” Family Travel Association founder Rainer Jenss says. “Even more families will be traveling this holiday season and into next year.”

Minnaert predicts an uptick as soon as this Thanksgiving, even if the youngsters haven’t finished their complete dosage regimen. “Other family members may be [vaccinated] and that reduces the risk,” she says.

Additionally, the pause button that was placed on so many milestones can finally resume. Therapist Rebekah Rosler of Fairfield, Connecticut, says she’s been “desperate for this” vaccine, as her kids haven’t gone inside anywhere since March 13, 2020—except for school just in the last couple of months. “No friends or activities for 18 months,” she says. “If I can get my 5-year-old kid a shot in her arm, along with my booster, I’ll be flying to Scotland to attend my sister’s wedding in January.”

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