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Vaccine Mandates Expanding To Kids: Disney Cruise Requires Children 5 And Up Be Fully Vaccinated

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Disney Cruise Line expanded its Covid-19 vaccination requirement Wednesday to include children ages five to 11 for cruises starting in January, one of the first major cases of vaccine mandates extending  to kids now that they’re eligible for the shot.

Actor William Levy, actress Elizabeth Gutiérrez and their children on Disney’s private island … [+] Castaway Cay during a Disney Cruise Line vacation.

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Key Facts

Disney cruises already require all eligible guests be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 —which for now means those ages 12 and up—and said on its website that the requirement will extend to guests ages five and older for sailings beginning January 13.

Children are required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken between 24 hours and three days before the cruise in order to sail on cruises before the vaccine mandate takes effect.

All guests, including those vaccinated, are also required to take a Covid-19 test both directly prior to boarding the cruise and the day before they disembark.

Most major cruise lines now have vaccination requirements in place—though Carnival Cruises allows for some exemptions—but major cruise competitors like Royal Caribbean have not yet expanded those policies to include children.

Norwegian Cruise Line prohibits any unvaccinated person from sailing on its cruises, which has so far meant children ineligible for the shot cannot sail, and Celebrity Cruises says all eligible guests must be vaccinated, but so far specifies on its website that only includes those ages 12 and up.

Disney does not have any vaccine requirements in place for its theme park guests, though all U.S. employees of the company must be vaccinated.

What We Don’t Know

How long Disney’s vaccine requirement will last. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in October that it intends to lift its mandatory safety requirements for cruise ships starting January 15, which will leave any safety measures up to the individual cruise lines to decide. Disney still has many safety protocols in place on its cruises, such as an indoor mask mandate and reduced capacity. CFO Christine McCarthy said on the company’s fourth quarter earnings call this month the cruise line will have social distancing measures in place through the first half of 2022 “at least,” however, suggesting measures could potentially be relaxed after that.

What To Watch For

Whether vaccine mandates for children will become more widespread. Disney’s extension of its vaccine mandate comes after San Francisco said it plans to extend its proof-of-vaccination requirement for indoor public places to kids, but other cities with similar vaccine requirements like New York City have so far kept their requirements to those 12 and up. Vaccine mandates for schools may also become more common, particularly if the vaccine is given full approval by the Food and Drug Administration, but many schools have so far held off on requiring the shots for younger children just yet. 

Chief Critic

Any child vaccine mandates may be unpopular with many parents, as a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in October found 53% of parents of children ages five to 11 are “worried their child may be required to get vaccinated for Covid-19 even if they don’t want them to.” A majority of parents of five- to 11-year-olds remain hesitant about vaccinating their children despite evidence showing the shots are safe and effective, with the KFF poll finding 30% will “definitely not” inoculate their child, 5% will only do so if required and 33% plan to “wait and see.”

Key Background

Cruises have been a significant source of concern for Covid-19 transmission since the early days of the pandemic, when many cruise ships became major vectors for Covid-19 infection and resulted in widespread outbreaks. Cruises had been shut down for most of the pandemic as a result before resuming over the summer with stringent safety measures in place. Vaccine requirements for cruises have been controversial despite the high potential for Covid-19 transmission, however, and Florida—one of the country’s major cruise hubs—banned cruise ships from requiring proof of Covid-19 vaccination. A federal judge blocked that ban in August, however, ruling Norwegian Cruise Line could require vaccinations on its cruises out of Florida, and a spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis previously told Forbes the state would not enforce the proof-of-vaccination ban against other cruise lines until an appeals court rules in that case.

Further Reading

Disney Requires Cruise Passengers To Bahamas To Get Vaccinated Against Covid-19 (Forbes)

Kids Ages 5-11 Are Now Eligible For Covid Vaccines—But Polls Suggest Many Parents Won’t Let Their Child Get The Shot (Forbes)

San Francisco will require children 5 to 11 to show proof of Covid vaccine for some indoor activities (NBC News)

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