3. Families with young children
These are some of the hardest cases, because children under 12 seem to be months away from being vaccinated.
There are a few reassuring facts for these families. First, in many of the places where children spend time, Covid transmission is uncommon. It is extremely rare outdoors, and springtime is a good time to be outdoors. The number of outbreaks in schools has also been quite low worldwide, perhaps because children may be less likely to infect others even when they have Covid.
Most reassuring is the fact that Covid is no more serious for children on average than the flu. I have written an article, with charts, that goes into more detail. As I explain, some parents may still choose to be extremely cautious, while others will be more comfortable with normalcy. Both decisions are defensible. Here’s an interview from that article:
Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins, told me that she viewed decisions about children’s activities as a matter of personal choice that different parents would make differently. In her family, she said she was worried about how a year of pandemic life had hurt her children, by making them less comfortable in social situations. Once all the adults are vaccinated, she plans to restart more activities.
“I can accept the risks of my kids getting Covid, in part because I compare it to the risk of them getting other infectious diseases and the risk seems very, very small,” Dr. Nuzzo said. “I feel that if my kids were to get Covid, they would be OK. I also see the direct harms of their not having a normal life.”
4. The unvaccinated
About 40 percent of U.S. adults have not yet received a vaccine shot. For the country to reduce that number as rapidly as possible, it’s important to acknowledge reality: The vast majority are unvaccinated by choice.
They do not have health problems that prevent them from getting a shot, and they have not been stymied by the logistics of getting a shot. Yes, there are people in both of those groups, and they will need special help as society begins to reopen. Among other things, the Biden administration, state officials and employers will need to keep pushing to make vaccination even more convenient.
But the much larger issue is vaccine skepticism.
In the most recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 15 percent of adults said they did not want to get a shot until they knew more about how it affected other people. Another 6 percent said they would get a shot only if required (say, by their employer), and an additional 13 percent said they would definitely not get a shot. Put those three numbers together, and you get 34 percent — which, again, accounts for most of the unvaccinated 40 percent.
Unvaccinated people do face some additional risk from the hypothetical example that many people have been talking about since the C.D.C. changed its guidelines: the unvaccinated person who was wearing a mask in stores and avoiding restaurants until last week but no longer will.