Travelling with kids under 12? What to know about the latest COVID-19 rules

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Canadians hoping to travel internationally for the holidays have much to celebrate.

A White House official told Global News on Friday that fully vaccinated Canadians will be able to travel to the U.S. by land or sea for non-essential trips starting Nov. 8. Later in the day, came the news that Canadians with mixed vaccines will also be able to cross the border.

And Canada lifted its quarantine requirement for vaccinated travellers entering the country by land and air back in July.

But one large group of vaccinated adults who may still have to shelve any plans for cross-border holiday trips: those with children under the age of 12 who cannot get the coronavirus vaccine yet.

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While international travel with young children is possible, it remains riskier and more complicated. Here’s what to know.

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Re-entering Canada with kids under 12

Children under 12 who are travelling with fully vaccinated parents, step-parents, guardians or tutors don’t need to quarantine upon re-entering Canada but won’t be able to go back to their routines right away, either. That’s because they won’t be allowed to attend school, daycare or camp for 14 days after their return, according to guidelines posted on the website of the government of Canada.

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The kids may also need to postpone seeing their grandparents for a while. Unvaccinated children returning from a trip abroad must avoid contact with people 65 years of age or older, as well as with those who have a compromised immune system or underlying medical condition that makes them more susceptible to complications from COVID-19.

Families must also ensure the children aren’t travelling on crowded public transport or attending crowded settings like amusement parks or sporting events.

Still, the kids won’t stay locked up in the house for two full weeks. They’re still allowed to go to the park, to head out for a walk, or to accompany their parents on errands to the grocery store or pharmacy, provided they avoid crowds, wear masks at all times, and maintain physical distancing.

There are also testing requirements. For unvaccinated children aged five and older, families have to provide negative COVID-19 results from tests taken right before entry, upon arrival, and eight days after coming back. As for adults, these must be molecular not rapid antigen tests.

Children under the age of five are exempt from the testing requirement, but parents should still include them as travellers in their submissions through the ArriveCAN app, which enables travellers to upload their trip details, test results and quarantine plans, if applicable. Use of the app has become mandatory for virtually anyone entering Canada by air, land or marine vessel.

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In addition to the federal directives, parents should also check for any additional public health requirements in their local jurisdiction.

Children under the age of 12 travelling with unvaccinated adults must quarantine upon entering Canada.

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Travelling to the U.S.

Starting on Nov. 8, children under 12 will also be allowed into the U.S., provided they’re travelling with someone who satisfies U.S. vaccination requirements.

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Canadians who have received two shots of the Moderna, Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines will be able to enter the U.S. U.S. authorities have also said the U.S. will accept international travellers vaccinated with mixed doses of any FDA or WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines, which include Moderna, Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines.

There will be no need for a COVID-19 test to enter the U.S. by land or sea for vaccinated visitors. However, proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three calendar days of travel is still required to board a flight to the U.S. for all passengers except children under the age of two.

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Health risks

Regardless of entry requirements, travelling abroad with children who aren’t vaccinated remains “risky,” even if parents have received their two shots, says Anna Banerji, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. 

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“There’s the risk of (unvaccinated children) getting sick or potentially spreading it,” she says.

The risk varies based on your destination, local rate of COVID-19 cases and vaccinations, as well as public health measures in place, she says. Some U.S. states, she notes, still have three times the average number of cases per population than Canada has.

“In many parts of the States, COVID is not under control,” she says.

Even if you’re flying to a destination with low rates of COVID-19 and stringent rules to contain the contagion, you’ll still be on an airplane for hours, potentially with people from all over the world, Banerji cautions.

The safer choice is to wait until young children have also had their full dose of vaccine, she says.

Earlier this month, Pfizer was the first vaccine maker to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to authorize emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children aged five to 11.

Pfizer has submitted its initial trial data to Health Canada and plans to make a formal submission by mid-October, a spokesperson previously told Global News. As of Friday, Pfizer had not made the submission to the regulator.

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Banerji says she’s hopeful children aged five to 11 will be vaccinated within the next two to three months.

with files from Global News national reporter Aaron D’Andrea

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