Dr Robin’s Covid-19 Updates

Our Unvaccinated Kids Are Unprotected

How We Can Keep Them Safe

Photo by Atoms on Unsplash

I’m a Boston-based cancer doctor and I’ve been writing weekly fact-based-no-blame-no-rumors-all-science-all-the-time essays about Covid-19 since March 2020. You can read about other ways to navigate our post-vaccine world here and here and you can read about vaccines (and anti-vaxxers) throughout history here.

Our darling children are unvaccinated so they are unprotected and we need to keep protecting them.

They are unvaccinated because the vaccines trials were deliberately set up to not include them:

— we often wait to test kids until after vaccines are proven safe in adults

— kids don’t generally get serious disease from Covid so they wanted to test the vaccines first in people who get super sick

— the data for the vaccine trials for kids under 12 will not be final and available for evaluation for some number of months

When will kids be able to finally get vaccines? Putting on my Dr Covid Guesstimater hat:

Over 16: Pfizer is available now in many states

Ages 12–15: Probably this summer, maybe as early as May/June

Ages 5–11: Maybe the late fall?

Ages 1–6: Maybe early 2022?

In all discussions about kids this much is true:

— younger kids (roughly under 11) are at less risk than older kids

— younger kids usually don’t get super sick

— kids usually aren’t very sick or contagious for very long

— kids can have some lingering symptoms and we don’t know much about this yet

— kids of color are more likely to get serious Covid

— kids rarely get hospitalized (1%)

— kids very very rarely get MISC (the multi systemic super-sickness) (3100 known kids so far in the US)

— kids very very very rarely die (<0.1%) (~250 kids in the US)

every long-term illness or death in a child is a tragedy of unparalleled proportion and reverberates for all eternity in that family and their circle

Fortunately, with Covid the statistics favor our children — unlike terrible diseases of the past like influenza or measles or the plague or whooping cough that destroyed large swaths of kids.

But again, unvaccinated children are unprotected and we must protect them.

Here is where I try to imitate, very badly, a high school cheerleader.

— -What is our goal? Coming out of the darkness!

— -What is our other goal? Getting back to a Newish Normal as quickly as possible!

— -How are we going to do it? Keeping our kids masked!

Kids need to keep wearing masks around other unvaccinated people, and maintain some distance, and be particularly careful and try not to eat close to other people or for very long. And this all applies more inside than outside.


— -Because the kids can CATCH Covid from unvaccinated people

— -And the kids can GIVE Covid to unvaccinated people.

So no inside playdates without masks for the unvaccinated.

And kids should definitely wear masks when in crowd situations where you can’t know whether people are vaccinated or not.

However, most unvaccinated kids probably don’t need to wear masks around vaccinated people.


Because we have learned over the past couple of months that once you’re vaccinated, there’s little risk of CATCHING any kind of Covid — not serious, not hospitalized — and also very few mild or asymptomatic cases as well.

We have also learned there’s little risk vaccinated people who defy the odds and are unlucky enough to get Covid will TRANSMIT it.

So since there’s low risk of infection in vaccinated people and low risk of transmission from vaccinated people, it is safe to say unvaccinated kids generally don’t need to wear masks around vaccinated people:

— -It is very unlikely kids will CATCH covid from vaccinated people

— -And it is unlikely kids will GIVE covid to vaccinated people.

It’s unlikely. It’s not no risk, but it’s low-risk.

Now if anybody is high risk (the kids, the friends, the playdates, the relatives, or the adults) for getting serious disease or repercussions from Covid, it’s a different story and you have to think through it differently. Different “risk/benefit ratio.”

So most of the time, this is a Good Enough Guideline to lower the risk of unvaccinated kids getting Covid:

Kids with vaccinated people: no masks.

Kids with unvaccinated people: masks.

Some people feel this is a confusing time with too many choices but I don’t feel that way about the kids; I think it’s pretty simple.

1. Unvaccinated kids are unprotected

2. We already know how to keep them reasonably safe so we keep doing the same old same old (distance, ventilation, minimizing times of exposure, trying to be outdoors whenever possible)

3. We need to keep the kids masked around the unvaccinated.

So once again, Dr Covid, Head Cheerleader repeats herself:

— -What is our goal? Coming out of the darkness!

— -What is our other goal? Getting back to a Newish Normal as quickly as possible!

— -How are we going to do it? Keeping our kids masked!

And counting down the days till we can get them vaccinated, too.

Covid-Translator. Cancer doc: ~Three decades at MGH. Writer and storyteller: Moth Grand Slam Champion. Mom. www.DrRobin.org, @robinshome, robinshome2@gmail.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store