You’re Vaccinated, Your Kids Aren’t. Can You Travel?

When I’ve written about being able to travel again once you’re fully vaccinated one of the questions that comes up often is: what about families with children?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved in the U.S. for people 16 years old and above. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for people 18 and above. Clinical trials are ongoing for younger children. Moderna just started a trial for children as young as six months.

Right now, though, adults can get vaccinated and children cannot. You may be able to travel, but what about travel with your kids?

There are really two separate questions here,

  • Is it reasonable to travel with children who haven’t been vaccinated?

  • Will countries allow unvaccinated children to enter?

Is It Reasonable To Travel With Children?

I’m not one to compare Covid-19 to the flu. I was writing and warning about it when Anthony Fauci was still saying we shouldn’t be. But for children under 9 it is statistically less worrisome than flu. That doesn’t mean there is never any risk and indeed early in the pandemic we heard a lot about reactions similar to Kawasaki Syndrome.

Brown University Professor Emily Oster, who has studied Covid-19 data for the past year and writes about data-driven parenting, points out that being under 9 years old is basically the same thing as being vaccinated in terms of risk to their own health.

The big goal of vaccines is to reduce serious illness and death. That’s what we’re trying to produce with our vaccination. The vaccines we have take a huge risk of hospitalization and death for older adults and reduce it by 85, 95%. Just really big reductions in risk.

The thing is that your 9- or 10-year-old is already basically a vaccinated adult from that standpoint. I mean, it’s true. If you think about the reduction in hospitalization or death risk from being 10, rather than being 80, it’s 99.9%, 98%. It’s actually better than the Pfizer vaccine. I’m hoping that may be a helpful way for people to think about the relative risk for kids, because I think we’ve gotten to this space where it’s like, OK, well, until my kids are vaccinated, I can’t let them out. You’re letting the grandparents out. Let your kids out.

If young children get Covid – and there are always outliers, as with flu – “it’s a cold. And ultimately with vaccines it’s a cold for the rest of us. And we get those a lot from our kids and other people.”

Oster brings receipts, comparing the absolute peak of hospitalization during Covid-19 against peak flu hospitalization three years ago.

Credit: Emily Oster

She also shows that Covid-19 is less likely as a cause of death in children than homicide or heart disease.

Credit: Emily Oster

Bottom-line is that protecting your children doesn’t seem to be a reason not to travel with your young children once you’re vaccinated against Covid-19 and they are not, if you don’t keep them in a bubble during normal times.

The SIDS death rate for infants under 1 in this comparison period is eighty times higher than the death rate for COVID-19.

…kids get viruses. You cannot avoid the possibility they might get sick on vacation. But the presence of COVID-19 in a world of vaccinated adults does not change the risk of this very much at all.

However children can still get the virus and might spread it especially to those who are not yet vaccinated. So precautions like distancing, masking, and engaging primarily in outdoor activities with your children is most responsible as a means especially of protecting other people who are making the choice to be in poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

Will Children Be Allowed To Travel?

There are no prohibitions on U.S. domestic travel, so children are permitted to travel. In some cases there are quarantine or testing requirements that apply to children (children 5 years and older have to present an eligible negative test to avoid quarantine in Hawaii for instance). However many governments have closed their borders, or re-opened them with testing and quarantine.

I’m hopeful that I can visit Australia when they open – presumably with a vaccination requirement. I would like to see my family there, which has grown by two members during the pandemic. But will my young daughter be allowed to enter the country?

Countries like Iceland have eliminated quarantine requirements for people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19. Children, for whom vaccines haven’t been approved, do not have this option.

Vaccines in lieu of quarantine are still new. There may be accommodations made as travel continues to open and more countries use vaccination as a criteria for hassle-free entry. Or they may require testing in lieu of quarantine for children. This hasn’t all been worked out yet.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. No need to bring facts. The liberals refuse to read them. They want everyone healthy or otherwise to rot in a hole at home

  2. The “Could, Might, May Syndrome” is alive and well. So much for statistics!

  3. Emily Oster is an economist, not a medical doctor or epidemiologist. Let me know once we hear from actual scientists.

  4. Actually, Gary, Seychelles allows kids traveling with vaccinated adults regardless of (the kids’) vaccination status.

  5. @Andie – Emily Oster is competent evaluating data. What she presents is accurate, is there any of her data that you think is wrong? You might offer an actual argument here if you disagree, rather than attacking the person presenting these facts.

  6. Oster’s comments you quote were WIDELY criticized by actual doctors, epidemiologists and virologist. Oster is an economist, and we should be looking to the CDC and other health officials for guidelines when it comes to children and their risk levels. The latest information and expectations they set is that high school-aged kids will likely be able to be vaccinated by the fall, and younger kids by early next year (multiple trials are in process with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines).

    Until then, we continue to practice all preventive measures.

  7. Travel is OK, but I am sure Gary wants the mask mandates to stay in place longer so he has more Jerry Springer / Karen of the Day news to blog about. It’s going to get really juicy when all willing adults are vaccinated and the mask mandates remain because we waited until 2022 to vaccinate 1/3 of the population (the kids).

  8. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity for their new itineraries are requiring children to be tested. Adults need vaccination and children need negative 72 hour test.

  9. The world would be a much better place if we had less “competents evaluating data”

  10. Your business and your family travel opportunities will recover more after a few more months, so trying to play up “Covid risk isn’t worse than pre-Covid/extra-Covid risks for kids” really seems to be pushing at a string that is already being pulling to get your income and travel opportunities back on the road to recovery.

    Are you going to be collecting on the child assistance portion of the Biden Covid recovery act for your family? Perhaps it could fund a bit of your future family travel.

  11. Gary – You have written so much BS on this injection, masks and other related Covid-19 info over the past year it is just pathetic. Stick to travel, planes, rentals, mileage earnings, etc…where you are an expert and truly useful!

    I repeat again, from your supreme leader Faucci, this “injection” will do NOTHING to prevent you from getting Covid-19. “Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted the COVID-19 vaccines won’t stop people from contracting the virus; the shots only lessen the symptoms if a recipient is later infected with SARS-CoV-2.”

    “Since no one knows whether the vaccine prevents transmission, Fauci warned, even vaccinated people must wear a mask if “they’re around people who are vulnerable to infection.” It will be at least a few more months before researchers know for certain the risk level of a vaccinated person infecting someone else, Fauci said.” Yeah, right. Wear your mask like that is going to help you from your own people.

    So now we will have tons of infected but “possibly” not symptomatic unhealthy vaccinated people running all around thinking they are superman and immune. What a bunch of crack. Thankfully, all of us unvaccinated still have an innate immune system perfectly functioning to ward off against all of you zombies. While you and the others mutate this “virus” to even stronger levels you will have no guard against.

    Oh and by the way…..Three fully vaccinated Hawaii residents infected with coronavirus, as reported today. Good luck to all of you!

  12. NO way any experimental gene therapy ‘vaccine’ is going anywhere my children.

    Gary I love your work but sometimes your blog reads like an advertisement for Dr Fauci and the radical left. We need to protect our children and that means staying the heck away from ‘vaccines’ that have unknowns on long term impact.

  13. I’d like to see a debate between Emily Oster and Anthony Fauci instead of the puff interviews he’s usually getting which have rendered him completely unaccountable and allow him to spew fear-mongering nonsense.

  14. Its all about risk tolerance and middle grounds. The statistics seem pretty clear that COVID is less deadly for kids than the flu, but I have not dug into the data to see how the flu vaccine plays into that, because kids can get a vaccine for the flu but not all do. Perhaps among kids who get the vaccines available to them, covid is somewhat worse than the flu, because the flu vaccine protects them from the most severe cases of the flu. But beyond death, we don’t know whether covid does any long term harm to kids, maybe swells the heart so it lasts 60 years instead of 80, or hits the ACE2 receptors in testes and affects later fertility of male children. The mild illness in children indicates the risk is low but its still unknown. Its also possible the vaccine will have more side effects for kids, or that getting covid when its mild as a kid will actually be good and protect better than a vaccine from future more dangerous variants. We just don’t know. There is a middle ground where maybe you do take your kid on a plane for one trip, but maybe you don’t take them on a world tour of Rio De Janeiro, all the Disneylands, a crowded cruise, and Cape Town the first day you parents are fully vaccinated. In a year without travel, even a basic trip to see grandparents or go to an outdoor zoo is a great relief, and many great options exist to visit outdoor beach attractions and stay in a hotel or airbnb without the crowds of an amusement park or fully indoor destination, so maybe you ease into full travel.

  15. While hospitalizations and death are much lower for kids, the biggest worry for me is long COVID.

  16. @Todd – it was irresponsible of fauci to suggest that vaccines wouldn’t reduce transmission when they almost certainly would, but we now have data to support that they do.

  17. @Gary – You have no data to support this other than what is fabricated. It is impossible to state you have reliable data at this point of introduction to support an absolute that these injections will reduce transmissions. Any data coming from vaccine makers or those doing studies sponsored by the makers are tainted. Period. We have seen that over and over through the years. We know how big pharma works.

    What you have is the beginning of people getting vaccinated and still getting Covid. You have an experimental vaccine issued by the FDA which was only studied on about 75000 people or .0002 percent of the US population by both Pfizer and Moderna. An mRNA never used in people. No idea what that will do. Normally takes 10 years to study vaccines…You now have people dying or seriously injured all over the world from these injections. Fact.

    Now the “authorities” are stating…

    “Fully vaccinated people now can resume:
    Visiting with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
    Visiting unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe coronavirus disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.”

    Are they nuts!! That is the direct opposite of what should be stated. Fully vaccinated should be the ones who wear masks if they are near anybody who is in poor health, immune compromised or the elders. Because they won’t know they are sick and transmitting Covid, assuming the injection even remotely works as Fauci “hopes”. Because they simple don’t know but you are all part of their lab experiment.

    There is zero need to vaccinate children and anyone who would subject their kids and babies to this “test” is simply ignorant and should be held liable to any damage caused by said injection. Oh…but you can’t sue the vaccine makers so…..throw the parents in jail.

  18. @Todd

    We are all so impressed by your deep reservoir of expert knowledge. Please share some other gems you’ve accumulated over the years! *point fingers at data-driven economists at your own risk

  19. Thanks Gary, reasonable take that I largely agree with.

    No idea why this particular post brought out so many rather unreasonable responses.

  20. Gary – great topic and very timely as families are getting jammed up now planning for summer travel. When I say jammed up it is due to popular accommodations that are selling out for peak summer travel weeks, and low air fares that may soon disappear. Most families simply can’t plan vacations (particularly international) on the drop of a dime because they have to schedule around sports, camps and other activities (fortunately it appears most sleep-away camps will be open unlike last summer when many were closed by overzealous health officers.)

    Unfortunately the options for families are quite limited right now as Europe and many other countries do not have their act together. As you note there are a select few that have signaled intent to admit vaccinated adults (Iceland and Greece) but none appear to exempt children. So at this point families are for the most part limited to Hawaii and about two dozen countries including Mexico and Costa Rica. Very sad that millions of travel industry workers will remain unemployed because their governments don’t understand science.

  21. I’d be thrilled if kids were banned from airplanes for a year or two. For their safety, of course.

  22. Krispy Kreme is offering a free donut EVERY DAY for all of you who can prove you are vaccinated. As it is the #1 cause of death from “covid” is actually obesity. So if you are completely insane and want to take your last flights departing this fine planet called Earth, go get your donuts, then wait for the diabetes and obesity to kill you “from covid.”

    Only in the USA!!! Aren’t we so proud of ourselves for thinking this stuff up!!

  23. Basically the data shows that unvaccinated kids are a danger until the receiving population is immune because not only they are carriers of COVID (and so can infect 80 year olds and kill them), but they’re less likely to have outward symptoms.

    Which is exactly the opposite of what you wrote.

    Shameful misuse of selective data.

  24. Talk about shameful misuse of data, there will not be “immunity”. The vaccines will allegedly lower the risk of contracting COVID-19…if one does contracted it, duration & severity are suppose to be greatly shortened….will be interesting to see what the CDC publishes once they collect enough data on duration & severity.

  25. A couple of things.

    1) The longer kids go unvaccinated, and airlines/countries/cities ban people (children) that are unvaccinated, the happier traveler I will be. Gary is presenting a certain viewpoint because he has a child and will likely be unable to visit Australia until his daughter is vaccinated.

    2) Once we reach a certain level of vaccination, the tables need to turn on masking. If you are vulnerable and have refused to receive a vaccination or continue to be paranoid, you should be wearing an N95 and if you are vaccinated the mask goes in the trash.

  26. you will probably be able to travel to greece. it seems as if they could care less about rising covid numbers or anything else. their economy is sinking faster than the titanic, and will be glad for anyone (sick or not) to throw money their way.

  27. “Gary Leff says:
    March 22, 2021 at 2:16 pm
    @Todd – it was irresponsible of fauci to suggest that vaccines wouldn’t reduce transmission when they almost certainly would, but we now have data to support that they do.”

    Gary, while I appreciate you taking the effort here to provide a counterpoint to Fauci’s recommendations from over a month ago, it’s a pretty unfair and misguided statement to suggest that he was irresponsible to recommend continued mask use in the first place. The idea that masks are required by EVERY SINGLE F#CKING SURGEON IN THE WORLD fighting to save your life (or improve it through cosmetic surgery) in the operating room has universal acceptance, yet there are millions of people opposed to wearing masks in any public space is the height of hypocrisy and a slap in the face to doctors, nurses, and orderlies that have dedicated their lives to saving yours. It’s a goddamned mask folks, not a muzzle, not handcuffs, and not any more of an infringement on your rights than a seat belt (which to be fair also had a robust opposition group initially).

    Gary, I don’t blame you for fanning the flames here but you are really doing your readers a disservice here by promoting the denigration of Fauci by refuting what he said in early February (which is a lifetime ago in terms of the pandemic and studies on the vaccine’s effect) in light of what we know today. Sterilizing immunity (please look it up) is unbelievably rare in vaccines, and the fact that Fauci cautioned that the current covid vaccines may not prevent vaccinated people from still catching covid and infecting others is not bullshit, but rather based on decades of studies on all previous vaccines developed by mankind. It’s a scientific breakthrough that the current vaccines appear to be providing sterilizing immunity at all! Did we know it was going to provide this level of immunity in the first place (or even a few weeks ago)? Absolutely not! But shooting the messenger is only playing to the anti-vaxxer nutjobs who apparently are already avid readers of your blog and will only serve to embolden them further, which guess what…will make it that much harder to reach the necessary level of vaccination rates to HOPEFULLY achieve herd immunity. Think the travel industry and by extension this blog will survive if the anti-vaxxers go mainstream and discourage 40% or more of the public from getting vaccinated? You’re better than this…

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