Is it OK to travel with kids again? Here's why I think so
Those with low immune resistance to COVID-19 should still stay home, unfortunately
“Today, I’m back to announce our action plan to battle COVID-19 this winter…. And it doesn’t include shutdowns or lockdowns but widespread vaccinations and boosters and testing and a lot more.” — President Joe Biden, Dec. 2, 2021
Like in many other medical families, my kids have been cooped up in their house since March 2020. We have done a couple of camping trips, but for the most part they have been home, hiding from COVID-19. We don’t go to school, we don’t do sports, we don’t have playdates, we rarely go into stores or restaurants, we do telehealth whenever possible.
But as the science around COVID-19 evolved, I found more cause to hope that my kids could go out into the world again. Everyone has to pick their litmus test and mine was vaccination. As soon as my kids were fully vaccinated, we felt comfortable mingling with the world again. In fact, through force of coincidence and the generosity of family members, their second dose of Pfizer turned into a shotgun, catapulting them out into a two-week road trip to five different California theme parks! It’s been a wild ride and I’d like to write to you about what I’ve learned, but I feel like I need to address this issue first.
If your child cannot get vaccinated or has cancer, an autoimmune disorder, an organ transplant, a genetic disorder or any other cause of a low immune system, I am truly sorry. If that were my situation, we would still be at home.
But since many parents of newly vaccinated 5-to-11-year-olds are wondering about heading out into the world, I wanted to lay out the reasons I felt comfortable with this trip. It’s OK if you disagree with them, but this is my thought process, with citations.
1. COVID-19 is not going away any time soon. If your litmus test for leaving the house is the eradication of this novel coronavirus, I’m sorry to say that you will probably be waiting years. As we’ve seen, new variants continue to pop up and this may be like the flu with ever-more variations developing each year. I would not be surprised if more variants come along so I’m getting my kids out in this window that they (and I, with my new booster) have the highest antibody count and are the most protected.
2. Vaccination, masking, social distancing and hand-washing are still the keys. Except for a bizarre blip in the spring of 2020 around masking, the advice from public health experts hasn’t wavered. The best defenses against this or any virus are simple, well-known and effective. We just have to do them.
3. Follow all local laws and regulations. I am not a public health expert. I rely on the ones employed by our governments to keep numbers low and hospital census numbers at manageable levels. When millions of other people are moving about freely, I don’t feel it make sense to unilaterally sacrifice my children’s experiences for some broader public health goal that I really have no control over. It’s entirely possible that everything will shut down again, as infectious diseases will become more common in our changing world. We will need to learn how to duck and weave.
4. Risk is everywhere. I’ve had a hard time with risk ratios ever since I got pregnant with not just twins but identical twins, with not just one disability but several. What were the odds? When it comes to COVID-19, the risk of death with a young and vaccinated body is vanishingly small. Yes, I still worry about long-haul COVID, but that, too, is a small potentiality after vaccination. Statistically, probably the most dangerous thing we did this trip was drive more than 2,000 miles. Road accidents are still a leading cause of death in America, at 20 in 100,000 people. Risk of death from COVID-19 in those ages 65 or less with full vaccination is 0.0 in 100,000 — too low to even show up. 
5. The potential benefit is high. Just because something is fun doesn’t make it more dangerous than un-fun things — and, actually, fun is a very useful educational tool. If unvaccinated kids can go to school, I think vaccinated kids can go to theme parks. Most of the activities are outdoors, attendance is lower this time of year, masks are required indoors and park staff have been good about enforcing proper mask-wearing. (Vaccination or negative COVID tests are also required, but nobody checked ours….) My kids are re-learning how to be out in the world: learning how to wear masks and social distance with literal Disneyland as the reward. They would not do as well if the “reward” for these new expectations was a math worksheet.
6. The kids are alright. Except for the low immune system categories mentioned above (and I truly am sorry if that’s your situation and can understand your frustration/outrage), the big spike that I expected when everyone went back to in-person school simply never materialized. There were some surges in pediatric hospitals, but by and large children’s immune systems seem much better able to dispatch COVID-19 than adults’, especially elderly adults.
I’m sure people have differing opinions on this topic, but I wanted to explain my reasoning. In coming weeks, I’ll be publishing disability access guides to some of the theme parks we visited. If travel still seems out of reach for you, or you disagree with my reasons, feel free to debate (respectfully) in the comments.
Medical Motherhood’s news briefs
• From Disability Scoop: “Zoos Working To Become More Autism-Friendly”
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is working with Vanderbilt University’s Kennedy Center Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders, known as TRIAD, and Oregon State University’s STEM Research Center to develop an evidence-based framework of inclusive practices for zoos and aquariums.
• From Insider: “Nick Cannon's youngest child dies of brain cancer at 5 months old”
Cannon said Zen, who had surgery and had a shunt placed to drain fluid, started to get sicker over Thanksgiving and tht his tumor began growing rapidly.
Instead of rushing back to New York for his show, as he normally does, Cannon described spending time at home and holding his son for the last time.
Lawmakers created NICA in 1988 as an answer to the demands of obstetricians, who complained that rising medical malpractice premiums would drive them out of the market. The law prevented parents from suing their doctor and hospital when a child was born with a specific type of injury, profound brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation or spinal impairment.
In exchange, parents were promised that NICA would provide “medically necessary” and “reasonable” medical care for the rest of a child’s life.
The pledge often proved to be empty.
In April, the Miami Herald, in partnership with ProPublica, documented how the program accumulated what is now $1.7 billion in assets, seeded by physicians’ annual fees, while often forcing families to beg for help. Since then, at least two state investigations — one by the auditor general, another by the Office of Insurance Regulation — confirmed the articles’ findings.
Medical Motherhood is a weekly newsletter dedicated to the experience of raising disabled children.
Replies to this email go directly to me, Shasta Kearns Moore.