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Health experts share tips on celebrating holidays safely with children as COVID cases rise

Dr. R.W. Mills, the Chief Medical Officer for Mercy Children's Hospital, says the more people who are vaccinated at a celebration, the better.

TOLEDO, Ohio — With the holidays right around the corner, many of you may be planning gatherings and celebrations with friends and family. 

Last year, COVID-19 put a lot of those on hold. But now, many younger children are vaccinated and health experts say that changes things.

But there are still some precautions to take. 

"I've been waiting since day one for them to get to his age group, because of the protection," said Gia Haskins, who took her 11-year-old son to get vaccinated Thursday.

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Kids ages 5 to 11 have been able to get vaccinated for about two weeks. Parents are taking advantage of it by taking their kids to the vaccine clinics held by the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

"Everybody in the family is vaccinated and we feel like we don't want him to be like the only one that, you know, gets contacted," said Adrian Martinez, the stepfather of an 8-year-old who was vaccinated Thursday. 

Lucas County Health Commissioner Eric Zgodzinkski says the county vaccinated around 800 kids on the first day, and the shots have been steady. 

"I think we're seeing good response," he said. "Last week we did over 2,000 peds vaccines in four days. We're looking at probably doing about the same over this next week or so."

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Health officials say it's a step in the right direction with another count down for the holiday season right around the corner. 

"Trying to make those family gatherings safe - I think the best thing that we can do clearly is vaccinating all the people that can be vaccinated," said Dr. R.W. Mills, the chief medical officer for Mercy Children's Hospital. "(The best way) protect kids that aren't vaccinated yet is to surround yourself with people who are vaccinated."

Zgodzinski said keep in mind it takes some time to have full immunity even after getting vaccinated.

"And that second dose really is when you get that full immunity," he said. "It's not going to be Thanksgiving we're gonna see that full immunity."

But those who are vaccinated now will have full immunity by Christmas. 

Still, Dr. Mills says if you're confident everyone else at the gathering is vaccinated, kids shouldn't have to wear a mask.

"I think if they're gonna go someplace where they're not sure of that vaccination status and they're gonna be in a situation where it's more of an enclosed space, it's probably not in the best interest to do that without a mask," said Dr. Mills.

And Zgodzinski says the virus isn't going anywhere any time soon.

"I think we're going to see it like the cold season, flu season," Zgodzinski said. "You know the other infectious disease seasons that we have. And we're going to have to contend with these spikes every now and then."

If you're planning to travel for the holidays, Dr. Mills says it's best for you to drive to the location if possible. But if you do have to fly, then he says being vaccinated is key and wearing a mask, and wiping down areas where you will be sitting.