Ask a Pediatrician: Now That There’s a COVID-19 Vaccine, When Will Life Go Back to “Normal” for My Family?

You ask, we answer. In each edition of “Ask a Pediatrician,” Connecticut Children’s pediatric experts respond to a question from our community.

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is here, families are wondering what it means for daily life, and all of the traditions and activities they’ve put on hold.

Connecticut Children’s pediatric infectious disease expert John R. Schreiber, MD, MPH, weighs in.

 
 

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Now that there’s a COVID-19 vaccine, how much longer will my child need to wear a mask, practice social distancing and limit exposure to people outside our household?

Dr. Schreiber:  We’re all eager to return to the way life was before the COVID-19 pandemic, like gathering with all of our loved ones in person, traveling, returning to sports, and going about our days without masks or social distancing.

We’re on our way. The COVID-19 vaccine is an extraordinary scientific achievement, and it is now being delivered to the people who need it most. But we still have a ways to go.

Life will probably not return to “normal” until fall or winter 2021.

It will take several months before the COVID-19 vaccine is available to the general population, which means most Americans ages 16 and up won’t receive both of the required doses until spring or summer.

And it may be as late as fall or winter 2021 until a full pediatric COVID-19 vaccine is available for younger kids.

(Wondering why this process takes so long? Connecticut Children’s physician-in-chief explains.)

Until most of the population (including kids) has received a vaccine, COVID-19 will continue to spread.

It’s important to remember how widespread COVID-19 is right now, and how easily it spreads.

Even once half the population has received the vaccine, the other half will still be at full risk of getting COVID-19. And while the vaccine is very effective at preventing illness from COVID-19, we still don’t know how well it prevents people from carrying and spreading the virus.

Plus, there will be a small percentage of people for whom the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t work. Pfizer’s vaccine is 95 percent effective, and Moderna’s vaccine is 94 percent effective. These are excellent efficacy rates. But it still leaves 5 or 6 percent of people for whom the vaccine won’t work. With a widespread pandemic, that’s a large number of people.

> Related: For help getting your family through winter, check out our Winter Kit!

Until the pandemic ends, everyone – even those who’ve received the vaccine – should keep using masks, social distancing and limiting exposure to others.

For the pandemic to end, we’ll need “herd immunity” (at least 60 percent of the population to be vaccinated or immune), which means waiting on the current COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed to the general population, and for a full pediatric vaccine to be approved and distributed.

Again, that could be fall 2021 at the earliest, and possibly winter.

Until then, all of us – even those who’ve been vaccinated – need to keep up all of our COVID-19 lifestyle changes.

We’re moving closer to “normal” every day. But there’s still a long road ahead. We have to keep everyone safe along the way.

What other topics would you like us to address in our “Ask a Pediatrician” series? Let us know at askapediatrician@connecticutchildrens.org.

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