Though vaccines for younger children are now available, they may not be fully protected in time for holiday celebrations this year. Here are ways you can help minimize their risk.

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There are several ways you can get into the holiday spirit safely with unvaccinated kids this year. BONNINSTUDIO/Stocksy

While the COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old will be available this month, it’s likely kids might not be fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving.

“We know that, fortunately, kids, especially younger kids, are at much lower risk of getting sick with COVID-19 than adults. That said, the risk is not zero,” Dr. Lisa Doggett, senior medical director for HGS AxisPoint Health and a fellow with the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Vaccine Science Fellowship, told Healthline.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over 1 million child cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed since early September.

While most kids will recover, the risk this fall depends on how much people can lower rates of COVID-19, Doggett said.

“Where infection rates are low, the risk to kids will be low,” she said.

Here are a few ways to do your part while you get into the holiday spirit.

As long as the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to circulate, anyone who is unvaccinated — kids and adults — should continue practicing strategies to avoid getting sick: face masks, social distancing, and hand-washing, said Doggett.

When it comes to masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that masks cover the mouth and nose and fit tightly against the sides of the face, allowing no gaps.

Wearing a mask with layers can provide extra protection.

“Even those who are vaccinated should take reasonable precautions,” Doggett said.

Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, can help ward off germs.

If you’re able to host a feast outside or in a part of the house with good ventilation or open windows, Doggett says to consider it.

“Keep in mind that gatherings outdoors are far safer for all of us, vaccinated or not, than indoor gatherings. So moving parties outside whenever feasible is a good idea,” she said.

The CDC suggests holding off on travel until you’re fully vaccinated.

“For kids who are able to be vaccinated, the risk of COVID-19 infection continues to outweigh the risk of the vaccine, even for the younger age groups. If holiday travel is planned, or visitors are expected, getting vaccinated as soon as possible (or getting a booster shot, if you’re an eligible adult) is a good idea,” said Doggett.

After missing out on holiday gatherings last year, many people are eager to celebrate with family and friends this year, which might require traveling to see them.

“While community transmission is still high across the U.S., vaccinated travelers will have more peace of mind when visiting friends and family. This could lead to a lot more pent-up demand for holiday travel,” Alex Butler, senior editor at Lonely Planet, told Healthline.

She recommends that all travelers become aware of COVID-19 and vaccination rates in the destination they are traveling to.

“They should also research all the local rules and regulations and be prepared to take whatever necessary precautions they need to stay safe,” Butler said.

While parents can feel reasonably comfortable traveling with vaccinated kids, Doggett said if your child is immunocompromised, take extra precautions.

“While we think vaccines still offer some protection to these children, the risk of infection is likely to be higher. In those instances, I would recommend talking to your child’s doctor about appropriate precautions, which are likely to include continued masking and social distancing,” she said.

If traveling isn’t an option during the holidays, Butler said to look for new areas to explore near you.

“During the pandemic, most of us learned new ways to satiate our wanderlust by exploring our communities,” she said.

While Lonely Planet offers suggestions for travelers in cities across the United States, Butler also suggested checking out social media sites dedicated to your state as well as its tourism board.

“Most will have great suggestions for safe activities close to home,” she said.

Even if kids don’t get sick from COVID-19, Doggett said they can still pass on the virus to others, including older adults who are more susceptible to developing COVID-19.

For this reason, she said families with unvaccinated kids need to take more precautions, especially if visiting older adults or anyone with a compromised immune system.

“Encouraging eligible family members who may come in contact with unvaccinated kids, such as grandparents over 65 who have already been vaccinated, to get COVID-19 booster shots will add one more layer of protection,” she said.

Each person who gets vaccinated, including children, increases safety for everyone with whom they come in contact, Doggett added.

“Widespread vaccination is the best way to end the pandemic and reduce the chance of variants of the virus that could be resistant to the vaccine, which could threaten our health, freedom, and economy all over again,” she said.

We understand that you’re worried about your health and safety away from home, and the safety of the communities that you’re visiting around the world. As regulations and requirements for travel shift, we’re here to help you navigate this complex and often confusing landscape. Whether you’re driving to a natural wonder in your state or flying around the globe, we can help you protect yourself and others.

Check back often to learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones on your next journey.