How to help make Halloween safe for unvaccinated children



Jack-o’-lanterns are lit on front porches, neighborhood streets are blanketed in colorful leaves, mulled apple cider is simmering on the stove, and children are putting the finishing touches on costumes and trick-or-treating routes. It’s Halloween season once again, but with COVID-19 still a part of life in 2021, how can children who are not yet vaccinated safely enjoy Halloween?

Although fewer children than adults have been infected with COVID-19, children can become infected with the virus and become sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that children also can unwittingly spread it to others.

As of August 2021, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was the only vaccine given emergency use authorization for children ages 12 and up. Moderna was still waiting for such authorization, having applied for it in June 2021. Both pharmaceutical companies launched trials of their vaccines for kids under 12 in March, and results regarding EUA were expected in the fall. Johnson & Johnson plans to initiate its first study of its COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 17 in the fall, according to Macaya Douoguih, the head of clinical development and medical affairs for Janssen Vaccines and Prevention B.V.

Considering only a fraction of children, which comprise roughly 20 percent of the United States population, are vaccinated, families are still looking for safe ways for young people to enjoy everyday activities, which include gatherings and holidays like Halloween. Much like last year, when vaccines were not yet available, young trick-or-treaters will have to take precautions.

• Mask-wearing protocols were lifted in much of the country or considered voluntary by early summer. However, unvaccinated individuals should still think carefully about donning a mask. This is particularly true when indoors in public or in outdoor areas with crowds and in areas of potentially high transmission.

• Do much of your celebrating outdoors, as transmission of any virus is largely mitigated by being outside with more space between people and lots of fresh air flowing. Skip indoor parties and stick to trick-or-treating only.

• Reduce the spread of germs by placing individually wrapped treats on a table for trick-or-treaters to grab themselves. Contact by directly handing candy to children could needlessly increase the risk of transmission.

• Make a paper or fabric mask part of the costume, ensuring it covers the nose and mouth.

• Avoid participation in trunk-or-treats, where candy is handed out from trunks in parking lots. These events force crowds to congregate in small areas.

• Consider a reverse Halloween setup wherein costumed children stand in their own yards and neighborhood participants drive around tossing candy to them on the lawn.

COVID-19 vaccines have returned some semblance of normalcy to millions of people’s lives. However, unvaccinated children still need to be on guard as they navigate events such as Halloween.

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