My Kids Will Still Be Wearing Masks Post-Vaccination

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
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Six hours after the FDA director signed off on COVID-19 shots for under-12s, my sister-in-law was texting the family thread. “CVS is taking appointments,” she messaged, and within fifteen minutes, my kids were all ready to get jabbed. Of course I cried when they got shots, because I’d been waiting for that moment since the pandemic started, and suddenly they weren’t at real risk for serious hospitalization or death. Finally. But don’t think that just because they’re all vaxxed up the world will suddenly see their faceholes. Is it winter? We’re wearing masks. I just ordered more on Amazon.

And I have so many reasons.

Reason 1: COVID Vaccines Themselves

COVID vaccines were not designed to stop you from contracting COVID. COVID vaccines were designed to stop you from dying of COVID. Now my Pzifer’ed up children will not die of COVID, for which I am eternally grateful. However, we have no information about vaccinated children’s risk of contracting MIS-C, or multi-system inflammatory syndrome, which causes systemic organ failure. I suspect it’s very low. However, I also suspect it’s not impossible. And what if my kids get COVID and give it to someone who might actually die? Uncool.

We also know that vaccine efficacy decreases over time (one US study found that Pfizer vaccines were just over 50% effective at preventing infection 19 weeks after a second shot). Hence, the current freakout over booster shots. Moreover, if vaccines are 90% effective at preventing infection, they are 10% ineffective at preventing infection. I live in the part of ‘Murica that loves them some AR-15s and thinks Jesus looks like Obi-Wan Kenobi (that’s not my state. But it could be). If you think Jesus looks like a Jedi knight, you are unlikely to line up for a COVID-19 vaccination. Therefore, our vaccination rates remain abysmal, and because only Jesus Obi-Wan can tell people what to do, they don’t wear masks.

Hence, they hack the Delta variant all over Target.

Hence, just in case my kids fall into that 10%, we’re wearing masks like Johnny Cash wears black.

Reason 2: Wearing Masks Does Not Just Prevent COVID

When people breathe, they exhale all kinds of nasty crap: cold viruses, flu viruses, what the CDC calls “aerosol particles” on so many pages I don’t need to cite one but I will. I don’t want to inhale someone’s aerosolized particles. That’s also known as phlegm. Itsy-bitsy droplets of phelgm. That’s gross enough to send me screaming until climate change causes that mass extinction it’s been promising.

All grossness aside, all those particles include what we colloquially call “germs.” Germs, I learned on “Sesame Street,” make you sick. If my kids and I are wearing masks, we can not only prevent COVID, we can prevent the common cold and influenza, especially if we sanitize our hands and get flu shots (PSA: get your flu shot). I do not like being sick. I do not want to be sick. I do not want my children to be sick either, because every parent knows that sick family timelines work like this:

  1. Day 1: Child #1 gets sick
  2. Day 3: Child #2 gets sick
  3. Day 5: Parents get sick at the same time.
  4. Day 6: Children #1 and #2 have recovered; parents pray for a death that will not come. Children #1 and #2 are officially renamed Thing 1 and Thing 2 as they destroy whatever enters into their line of vision. Pizza delivery for all!
  5. Day 7: Parents can lurch ineffectively towards microwave to reheat waffles for sustenance. Child #3 gets sick.

Wearing masks can circumvent that crap timeline, so sign me up. My children will look like cute little surgeons every winter.

Reason #3: Wearing Masks Prevents Other People From Getting Sick

I am a civic-minded human being. I believe that we should all work for the public good, and that public health is everyone’s responsibility. If my kids are brewing some nastiness, wearing masks will prevent them from passing it to other people. If this sounds particularly radical, people in Asian countries have been doing it before COVID, so it’s neither new nor mind-blowingly polite.

But I Won’t Be Like, Obsessive

Okay, if my kids will be outside, they won’t be wearing masks. Viruses don’t transmit well in sunlight. If they’re around family, or in a small group (one or two families) of friends, I don’t imagine them masking. But if you catch us out and about, we’ll be all masked up in seasonably appropriate facial garb.

But then, I was never that parent that dragged my kids to children’s museums or trampoline parks in the winter. “Ick, it’s cold and flu season and children have been touching things,” I’d tell my kids, and they would nod. They have long-understood other children as germ factories who frequently touch their own butts and then wipe their hands on public property. It did take COVID to turn me into one of those moms who sanitizes her hand sanitizer. In the before times, I’d have waved my hand. “You have to eat a peck of dirt before you die,” I’d have said, because I’m a dirt-worshipping hippie at heart.

Until it comes to viruses, apparently. Then I become obsessive as a surgeon.

Now, we’ll be wearing masks. At least until this pandemic is truly under control.

So don’t expect to see my kids’ faces until sometimes around age eighteen.

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