Anthony Fauci, M.D., addressed a question many parents might have as our second pandemic Halloween approaches: Should I let my kids go trick-or-treating? Dr. Fauci is happy to say it’s a go this year.
“I think that—particularly if you’re vaccinated—you can get out there,” Dr. Fauci told CNN anchor Dana Bash during a State of the Union interview on Sunday. “You’re outdoors, for the most part,” Dr. Fauci pointed out, “at least when my children were out there doing trick-or-treating.”
In addition to being an open-air activity (meaning the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 is much lower than during indoor gatherings), trick-or-treating is a major annual tradition for kids, who’ve already missed out on a lot of fun and normalcy during the pandemic. “Enjoy it. I mean, this is a time that children love,” Dr. Fauci said. “It’s a very important part of the year for children. I know my children enjoyed it.” He added that vaccinated people especially should “go out there and enjoy Halloween, as well as the other holidays that will be coming up.”
Of course, trick-or-treating is much lower risk for unvaccinated younger kids if all of the adults around them are vaccinated. Dr. Fauci took the opportunity to encourage people who are not vaccinated yet to reconsider as we near the start of the holiday season. “If you’re not vaccinated, again, think about it—that you will add an extra degree of protection to yourself and your children and your family and your community. So it’s a good time to reflect on why it’s important to get vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci said.
Dr. Fauci’s endorsement shows how much progress we’ve made over the past year. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised skipping traditional trick-or-treating because it was considered a riskier activity involving close contact with people outside your immediate household. While the agency hasn’t offered particular guidance on how to safely celebrate Halloween this year, CDC director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., told CBS News in September that outdoor trick-or-treating was “absolutely” O.K. She recommended kids go in “small groups” and avoid big crowds.
It’s also possible that by this Halloween, we will have the first COVID-19 vaccinations authorized for safe use in children under the age of 12, Dr. Fauci noted. Pfizer and BioNTech announced plans to apply for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for their two-dose mRNA vaccine to be used in children ages 5 to 11 at the end of September. At the time, Dr. Fauci said he expected that the shot, which was authorized for use in kids ages 12 to 15 in May and received full approval for use in people over 16 in August, would get the O.K. in time for kids to start getting vaccinated “hopefully, before the end of October,” as SELF reported.
The FDA committee that approves and authorizes vaccines is scheduled to discuss the potential use of the vaccine in younger kids in an upcoming October 26 meeting. Then, assuming the FDA grants the EUA, a committee at the CDC will review the evidence and make its recommendations. We don’t know how long that might take, but in May, after the FDA authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children ages 12 to 15, the CDC committee shared its recommendations only two days later.
So whether or not kids are actually able to get their first shot in time for Halloween, it’s very likely that COVID-19 vaccines for kids will be available within a few weeks. In the meantime, enjoy your Halloween candy and keep in mind that the best way to keep those under 12 safe is for everybody older than 12 to get vaccinated and take other common sense public health precautions.
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