Planning ahead for a safe holiday season
Posted on 11/08/2021
Smiling, multi-generational family eating nighttime meal together

Families are getting an early gift this holiday season: the chance to protect their children between the ages of 5 and 11 against COVID-19 through vaccination. For many, the winter holidays mean gathering with family and friends from near and far to share meals and quality time, situations that can quickly lead to the spread of COVID-19 -- especially for those who are unvaccinated.

An October 11th study from JAMA Internal Medicine indicates that the chances that unvaccinated family members will be infected or hospitalized with COVID-19 drop sharply if even one family member is vaccinated. The chances are reduced even further with each additional vaccinated or otherwise immune family member. There won't be time for younger children to be fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving or Hanukkah, but it's still possible to protect them for Christmas, Kwanzaa and end-of-year gatherings.  Children won't be considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after their second Pfizer dose, and each dose must be at least 21 days apart.

With that in mind, here's how to plan for the weeks -- and holidays -- ahead. If you're hoping for your children to be fully vaccinated before holiday gatherings, aim for the following dates:

November 19th for first dose

For the safest Christmas, the deadline for a child's first dose is November 19.

People start to see significant benefits of the first dose two weeks after their first shot, research has suggested. Having one dose before Thanksgiving or Hanukkah is better than nothing, but it takes both to ensure the optimal level of protection.

When scheduling the second dose, it is okay to be off by a couple of days if the three-week mark falls on a time when pharmacies and offices are closed for holidays.

December 10th for second dose

In order to be fully protected by Christmas Eve, which is December 24, children will need to get their second dose of the vaccine two weeks before -- making December 10 the effective deadline for that holiday.

If the holidays fall 10 or even seven days after the second dose, that may still provide enough protection, but two weeks is the best bet.

Here are suggestions for safer ways to celebrate the holidays from CDC


  • Protect those not yet eligible for vaccination such as young children by getting yourself and other eligible people around them vaccinated.
  • Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated.
  • Even those who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission.
  • Outdoors is safer than indoors.
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
  • If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19. A rapid antigen test (COVID-19 self-test) can be used at home and produce results in about 15 minutes. Antigen tests pick up when someone is most infectious. They are not as sensitive as PCR tests, which means there may be more false negatives. They are an effective test and a much better option than not testing at all. How to interpret self-test results

If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit CDC’s Travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family. CDC still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated.

Special considerations:

  • People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may not be fully protected even if they are fully vaccinated and have received an additional dose. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.
  • You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.
  • If you are gathering with a group of people from multiple households and potentially from different parts of the country, you could consider additional precautions (e.g., avoiding crowded indoor spaces before travel, taking a test) in advance of gathering to further reduce risk.
  • Do NOT put a mask on children younger than 2 years old.

By working together, we can enjoy safer holidays, travel, and protect our own health as well as the health of our family and friends.