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US Covid-19 Vaccine Passport: can kids travel without a vaccine?

Americans are on the move, and as travel picks up, many are wondering how to keep their children safe as they venture away from home.

US Covid-19 Vaccine Passport: can kids travel without a vaccine?
HANNAH MCKAY REUTERS

This June, more than five times as many travelers have gone through a TSA checkpoint compared to the figures from 2020. However, the numbers are still down significantly from their pre-pandemic levels.

In early May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine for US residents between the ages of twelve and fifteen. Since its approval, more than 10.5 million of the nation’s youngest eligible residents have received at least one dose of the mRNA vaccine. Children under twelve cannot receive a shot to protect them against covid-19, meaning a vaccine passport is out of the question.

Although families may be eager to take a trip this summer after being stuck inside for more than a year, the CDC urges caution for those who will travel with children. While children are less susceptible to the severe and even fatal effects of covid-19, they are not immune. When planning a trip with children too young to get a vaccine, the CDC advises that families follow the safety protocols for unvaccinated people.

What is the safest way to travel with children?

The CDC has ranked various ways to travel by their safety. The most secure options include “short road trips with members of your household or fully vaccinated people with few stops along the way.” Suppose driving is not possible, and families opt to fly. In that case, they recommend that tickets with the fewest layovers possible are selected to avoid crowded airports where maintaining a safe distance can be difficult. Long train and bus rides and cruises should be avoided as social distancing is difficult, and the vaccination status of those traveling alongside families is unknown.

As far as accommodations are concerned, families should opt to stay in “a house or cabin (for example, a vacation rental) with people from your household or fully vaccinated people.” Alternatively, if the aim of the trip is to visit vaccinated friends or family, staying with them is a good option. If possible, hotels, motels, hostels, and other multi-unit guest lodgings options should be avoided.

What safety precautions should be taken?

Like unvaccinated adults, children should be tested for covid-19 before and after a trip. New York Times reporter Christina Caron compiled helpful guidance for parents on preparing their children for the test. No one enjoys the covid-19 testing experience when it requires a long swab to be prodded into the nose. For children who may be “intimidated by the protective gowns, masks and face shields that health providers wear,” Caron explains that it is best to explain why they wear all that gear and how it keeps them safe.

Children should be masked in public spaces, and six feet separation should be maintained to limit the risk of exposure. Parents or other adults traveling with children should bring a hand sanitizer or ensure that they can wash their hands frequently.