- One infectious diseases expert says it is generally safe – with important conditions
- Definitely don’t visit if you haven’t been fully vaccinated
- Stay away if your grandchildren have any COVID-19 symptoms
Older Australians have stepped up in droves to be vaccinated, not only ensuring their own health is protected, but also opening up a privilege we value more than ever in this pandemic-affected world – the ability to spend time with loved ones.
Being fully vaccinated means these older Australians are less likely to contract COVID-19, and even if they do, they are less likely to require hospitalisation, or die.
Once two weeks have passed from the administration of the second vaccine, is it safe for grandparents to see – and give a big hug to – their grandchildren, even if those grandchildren have not been vaccinated?
Infectious diseases expert Professor Robert Booy told HelloCare “generally, it is safe” for vaccinated grandparents to see their unvaccinated grandchildren. However, there is one important caveat. If the grandchildren have any COVID-19 symptoms at all – a cough, a cold, a runny nose or fever – visits are definitely a ‘no-no’.
“But if you've got a perfectly healthy grandchild without symptoms, the interaction is likely to be safe – and important,” Professor Booy said.
“Children without symptoms from a low-risk area pose only a very small risk.”
Epidemiologist and adviser to the World Health Organisation, Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, told HelloCare a different approach has to be taken if the grandchildren live in a hotspot area, such as western Sydney in NSW.
Outside those hotspots, she said the risk is “very minimal”.
Professor McLaws said the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) needs to approve Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) so grandchildren can be tested in real time to see if they have picked up the virus in hotspot areas.
“This would enable people who are concerned about grandparents who, though vaccinated, may not have developed a high or protective immunity,” she said.
As Australia opens up, Professor McLaws believes RAT will become even more important.
“We need the TGA to start thinking ahead of the game,” Professor McLaws continued.
“Why aren't we allowing these tests to be done at home so that you could go and visit friends or relatives who can’t – for example, for medical reasons – get vaccinated?”
The tests cost around $10 each and are “very practical”.
“That’s got to be the next step," Professor McLaws said.
Spending time together has benefits for both grandparents and grandchildren, says Professor Booy.
“We are a family-oriented species,” he explained.
“We care about our relatives, whether young or old. We all want to interact. We want to learn from the wisdom of grandparents. We want to enjoy the fact that children are so free and creative and just fun to be around.”
“We have to find ways to make it happen.”
For unvaccinated grandparents, he wasn’t so encouraging, saying it “ridiculous” some “at-risk” people have still not received their jabs.
“They’re putting themselves at increased risk,” he continued, calling on them to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
For the unvaccinated and those in high-risk areas, grandparents can stay in touch with grandchildren virtually – for example, with conversations on WhatsApp or through social media sites such as Facebook.
After lengthy periods of lockdown, being close to family is something we all value more than ever.
Many of us have distant family members and we don’t know when we will be permitted to see them again – it could be years.
For those lucky enough to have family nearby, when lockdown restrictions permit it, that contact is sweeter than ever and the opportunity should be taken up.
For grandparents who have taken it upon themselves to get vaccinated, they can be reassured it’s quite safe to hang out with their unvaccinated grandkids.