More kids in the US can now get vaccinated: here's what that means for holiday travel

Children aged 5-11 years old in the USA are now eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The rollout is underway across the country.
On November 2, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced their recommendation. This expanded eligibility to approximately 28 million children and paved the way for low-risk family vacations to be returned--just in-time for the winter holidays. This is what the news could mean to your travel plans.

What will this mean for travel?

The CDC recommends that you delay travel until you are fully vaccinated. This means you have not received your second dose for at least two weeks. Children must get their second shot 3 weeks after the first. This means that Thanksgiving is too soon for anyone who doesn't want to travel with full vaccination. However, there are plenty of fully vaccinated families who could be traveling by December.

Skift was told by multiple travel agents that they anticipate an increase in family travel, particularly by plane, as more children are vaccinated. However, they stressed that this change won't happen overnight. Rainer Jenss, founder of Family Travel Association, said that although the vaccine has allowed families to travel again, it is subjective and will be based on individual comfort. "It's not an automatic everyone's okay to go'." Skift was informed by Rainer Jenss. "There's a built-in hesitancy, caution, and that doesn’t disappear suddenly."

Travel agents predict that families will remain relatively local during the holiday season. (c) Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Jennifer Hardy, of Cruise Planners, stated that the approval is too close to winter vacation because people are considered fully vaccinated only two weeks after their second dose. I do see more family gatherings in the future, but international travel, cruises and other destination-focused vacations are where parents are more cautious and will want to wait.

It's a good thing. Although they can get the virus and pass it on to their friends, children are susceptible to long-term side effects. It does happen. According to data from the CDC, in the US, the 5-to-11 age group, there were over 8,300 hospitalizations, with a third involving ICU, and 94 deaths caused by COVID-19.

Parents may feel more relaxed knowing that the shot provides some protection, even if it does not provide full immunity until they travel.

For those who are too young to get vaccinated, it is important to limit their activities in crowded areas (c) Nadezhda1906/Getty Images

Consider traveling with children under 5 years of age.

Certain precautions can be taken to keep children and their families safe. Dr. Vijay Prasad, a pediatrician, said that children too young to get vaccinated should self-quarantine if they will be in close contact with elderly or chronically ill people or those with immune suppression. "Parents should make a decision based upon their risk profile."

Lonely Planet's pediatric infectious disease physician, Ibukun C. Kalu, MD tells Lonely Planet that the key recommendation is to ensure that everyone eligible for vaccination is present. Hand-washing is important for those who are unable to vaccinate. It's also important to limit activities in places where it's difficult to determine everyone's vaccination status. She adds that behavioral mitigation techniques are more important than masking or vaccination for those who are too young.

Continue reading: How to travel with unvaccinated children

Families with young children need to consider the destination they want more than they did before COVID. Kalu states that the goal is to get to a place where safety should not be compromised no matter where you are. But for now, I believe it's about doing some more research in the beginning. This includes looking beyond the destination, cost, and logistics to see additional information regarding vaccination practices in that region, community spread COVID-19, and what you might need in order to keep your child safe.

Also, ensure that your family has the most current vaccines (c) Alison Wright/Getty Images

There are also the more common risks that you need to be aware of. Kalu says, "As a pediatrician I am still concerned about vaccine-preventable infection, especially those that can be picked while traveling." He suggests visiting the CDC website for your destination to ensure your children have their current vaccines.

"We have focused a lot lately on COVID, but influenza is another disease that can cause a lot of damage if it's your child," she said. She also suggested that your family get the flu shot before traveling, especially in winter.

Are children required to have a vaccine to enter the US?

Due to the inability to provide vaccines for adolescents around the globe, the US government will not require visitors under 18 years old to get vaccinated. They will also not have to self-quarantine on arrival. However, according to the CDC's recent orders, these determinations will be periodically reevaluated. For now, children will be tested within three to five days of arrival. If the results are positive, they can self-isolate.