Safe Holiday Travel Tips for Unvaccinated Kids

By David Shafran, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
December 8, 2021

As many families grapple with mixed vaccination status, K Health’s Pediatric Lead, Dr. David Shafran, shares some helpful advice for parents to ensure everyone has a healthy, happy holiday season. 

1. Is it safe for unvaccinated children with vaccinated parents to be around unvaccinated people either inside or outside? 

Yes, because children experience a lesser degree of severity if they do contract the illness. If unmasked however while there is a risk of virus contraction and the chance is elevated when around unvaccinated individuals, parents should know that children predominantly experience a lesser degree of severity if they do contract the illness. If unmasked there is a chance, albeit small, that they can transmit the disease to another, of special concern when around someone who might be immunocompromised.

2. Should unvaccinated children continue to wear masks, even if their parents are vaccinated? 

Masks do reduce the risk of disease transmission and asymptomatic children can transmit disease. However rate of transmission from children to adults is lower than adults to children. Additionally, while vaccinated adults can still contract the virus, the risk of severe disease is greatly reduced. When deciding whether or not to mask their child they should decide based on the comfort level of others. Often, home is the only place children are permitted to unmask and this respite, I believe, is critical for their mental health. This should be considered strongly by parents.

3. Can vaccinated parents who go indoors without a mask bring Covid back home to their unvaccinated children? 

Extremely unlikely but possible. Transmission is so low and the risk of children contracting and getting severe disease so low, that donning the mask would make a minimal difference. Additionally, it should be noted that the mask, unless an N95, predominantly prevents spread to others rather than protecting against disease contraction.

4. Is there a risk of vaccinated parents taking their unvaccinated children to indoor dining or other indoor activities? 

The short answer is yes and this all depends on risk tolerance. It is more possible for an unvaccinated child to contract COVID than a vaccinated one. Parents might take into account the vaccination status of the group with whom they are associating and should continue to remember that to most healthy children, though rare complications can occur, COVID does not pose a serious risk.

5. Are there any other health risks parents should consider if they decide to not wear a mask when their children are too young to be vaccinated? 

The risk of transmission to a child from an asymptomatic, vaccinated adult is extremely low and children predominantly become only mildly symptomatic with COVID. The world is a scary place from the perspective of a child. All the more so in the times of this pandemic. They look to parents for strength, sanctuary, and grounding and their approach to the risk around us mirrors that of their parents.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

David Shafran, MD

Dr. Shafran is a board-certified pediatrics physician. He joins K Health from the Cleveland Clinic, where he led a pediatrics practice and completed a fellowship in transplant ethics. He has completed multiple fellowships, including one in pediatric nephrology at Rainbow, Babies & Children's University Hospitals. He received his medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv and completed his medical residency at the Jacobi Medical Center.