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A vaccine is getting closer for kids 5 and younger: Here's how that could affect your spring travel plans

February 2 2022
7 min read
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A two-dose COVID-19 vaccine may soon be available to children under 5, as Pfizer and BioNTech announced they are currently seeking Emergency Use Authorization for the first two doses of a planned three-dose vaccine for children as young as 6 months of age.

The authorization would be welcome news to parents of children hoping to travel as the omicron variant continues to spread.

Thus far, more than 10.6 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., with children under 4 accounting for more than 1.6 million of those cases, according to data released by Pfizer.

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Here’s what families need to know about the state of COVID-19 vaccines for young kids – and when they should start planning travel, according to the current timeline.

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When can kids get vaccinated?

(Photo by David Sacks/Getty Images)

On Monday, Feb. 1, Pfizer said they are seeking Emergency Use Authorization for the vaccine "following a request from the FDA," making it likely that the U.S. government will approve of its use in a timely manner. The biotech companies said they "expect to complete their submission in the coming days."

The application is for authorization of the first two 3-microgram doses of a planned three-dose primary series in this age group, they said, while noting that "data on a third dose given at least eight weeks after completion of the second dose are expected in the coming months," at which point, it would potentially be submitted to the FDA in an expanded request to authorize a third dose.

“Ultimately, we believe that three doses of the vaccine will be needed for children 6 months through 4 years of age to achieve high levels of protection against current and potential future variants," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. "If two doses are authorized, parents will have the opportunity to begin a COVID-19 vaccination series for their children while awaiting potential authorization of a third dose.”

Should the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sign off, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be the first COVID-19 vaccine available to children under 5.

Related: With more kids eligible for vaccines, here’s how families are approaching 2022 travel

When can families plan travel with kids?

As soon as the first two doses of the vaccine are approved for young kids, you’ll want to hurry to make an appointment because millions of other families will likely be doing the same. And every day you wait pushes full vaccination status for your child back by another day.

Pfizer and BioNTech "plan to provide ample supply of the 3-microgram dose to meet demand should the FDA approve the EUA application," following their previous commitment to supply more than 4 billion doses of the vaccine globally in 2022.

"The companies continue to supply the vaccine under their existing supply agreement with the U.S. government, which continues through April 2022," they said in a statement.

If approved, kids in this age group can expect to be eligible for a third dose at least two months after receiving their second.

If you have spring break plans and you were banking on your kids to be fully vaccinated by then, that will likely not happen, although your kids may be vaccinated with their first dose. The second dose is typically administered at least three weeks later.

For a two-dose vaccine, full vaccination is typically achieved two weeks after the second vaccine. That means if a child gets their first dose on Feb. 8 (provided the two-dose vaccine is authorized by then), they could theoretically receive their second on March 1. In this case, they would likely be considered fully vaccinated two weeks later, on March 15. Most destinations with vaccination requirements consider travelers fully vaccinated two weeks after the final dose, so keep that in mind for your upcoming travel plans.

It is not yet known whether countries will require travelers in this age group fully vaccinated after the first two doses or if a potential third dose would be treated as a booster. Some countries, including France, only require adult travelers to be boosted to access certain public places restricted to those fully vaccinated.

Where can families travel with unvaccinated kids right now?

(Photo by David Sacks/Getty Images)

Most destinations have relaxed the rules slightly for families traveling with kids under 5, mainly because this age group isn’t eligible to be vaccinated yet. But families will want to read the entry requirements closely because they can vary wildly depending on where you’re going.

Some destinations simply allow young kids to skip testing altogether if traveling with a vaccinated parent. For instance, children under 12 traveling to France are exempt from testing, vaccination and booster requirements altogether.

Some have stricter requirements. Argentina does not require unvaccinated children to quarantine upon arrival, but the Argentine government recommends that minors not attend social activities or large events for seven days. While there is no official ban on children attending these events, families might want to avoid countries with strict or unclear rules until their young children can get vaccinated.

We’ve spent a lot of time over the past two years discussing pandemic rules for children on land and in the air, but children are joining their families on cruises, too. Very young children can cruise, but several major lines now require children as young as 5 to be fully vaccinated to sail.

Related: Try these hacks to keep your kid’s mask on during a flight

Where can I get a COVID-19 test for kids?

If you need a COVID-19 test for a very young child, make sure the facility you visit can perform them. Many major drugstores serve younger patients, but CVS and Walgreens will only serve patients 3 years of age and older. Rite Aid offers tests at no cost to anyone older than 4.

The CDC expanded the testing program for international travel to the United States last year, allowing airlines to accept at-home instant tests that include remote supervision. But if you’re considering using an at-home test approved for travel, those tests may also have age restrictions. Some tests, like Amazon’s COVID-19 test, aren’t available for children at all.

Cue Health’s COVID-19 test and the popular Abbott BinaxNow COVID-19 Home Test are authorized for people 2 and older (an adult must accompany test takers under 14).

And you shouldn’t run into trouble getting tests for children younger than 2, as many countries, including the U.S., don’t require testing for this age group. Either way, make sure you’re visiting a testing facility or purchasing a COVID-19 test that works for family members of all ages.

Bottom line

Although we aren't there quite yet, we're the closest we've been to rolling out a vaccine for younger kids.

But that doesn’t mean you still can’t travel or plan trips with your little ones as many destinations are understanding of the fact that very young kids can’t be vaccinated yet and don’t add undue restrictions on this age group.

That means traveling with very young unvaccinated kids shouldn’t be too much of a logistical issue, but the peace of mind knowing everyone in your family is vaccinated when traveling, appears to be forthcoming.

Related: 5 Fiji resorts for families where the kids clubs — and even private nannies — are included

Additional reporting by Caroline Tanner.

Featured photo by (Photo by FamVeld/Shutterstock)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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