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Kids won't be fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving. That's creating a dilemma for some parents

Lisa Schencker, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Parenting News

For many families, this Thanksgiving will represent a return to normalcy, thanks to COVID-19 vaccines.

But for some parents, the holiday presents yet another dilemma: Should they gather with friends and family, given that children ages 5 to 11 will be only partially vaccinated by Thanksgiving, and younger kids won’t be vaccinated at all?

Children ages 5 to 11 became eligible for their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine early this month, but two doses three weeks apart are required. A person is not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after the second dose, which for newly vaccinated children will be nearly two weeks after Thanksgiving has passed — at the earliest.

Experts say the decision boils down to the circumstances of each individual celebration, and how much risk parents are comfortable assuming. Last year at this time, local leaders were discouraging people from gathering for the holiday. This year, the decision is more nuanced.

There’s not much data on how protected children may be after only one dose, but some adults have contracted COVID-19 before their second doses, doctors say.

“It honestly has to do with risk tolerance, and there’s never going to be zero risk,” said Dr. Laura Zimmerman, a primary care doctor at Rush University Medical Center and chief medical officer for Illinois Medical Professionals Action Collaborative Team, or IMPACT, an advocacy group that fights COVID-19 misinformation. “The safest thing is always going to be to have as many people as possible at the gathering vaccinated, and then it’s just a matter of whether the benefits outweigh the risks.”


Adults who are eligible for booster shots should also have those before the holiday to make the gathering as safe as possible, she said.

Zimmerman has two sons, ages 9 and 4. This year, she’s considering celebrating Thanksgiving with extended family. Her 9-year-old will be partially vaccinated by Thanksgiving, and the adults will all be fully vaccinated.

“It’s been such a hard almost-two years now for everyone, and this is one of the first times we’re all gathering together,” Zimmerman said. “This year will be very special because last year we had a completely virtual Thanksgiving.”

Payton Ervin, of Naperville, also plans to get together with relatives this Thanksgiving, after a very small celebration last year. Last year, Ervin didn’t gather with most of her extended family because she worried about potentially exposing her grandparents and others with health issues to COVID-19.


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