Editor's note: this story misidentified the percentage of how many kids aged 5-11 and 12-17 have been vaccinated in their age group and has been updated.
As he returns to the area to visit with children after a year of major COVID-19 precautions, Santa Claus is certain to be pumped full of Cincinnati chili, goetta and Graeter's ice cream this holiday season.
Parents, however, may want to know if the jolly old St. Nick who could come in close contact with their child has been pumped with something else: the COVID-19 vaccine.
There are many businesses, organizations and agencies that will host Santa Claus in Greater Cincinnati this season. But the answer to whether or not they require visiting Santas to be fully vaccinated varies.
The question persists even amid a Santa Claus shortage, the latest casualty from a beaten-down supply chain that has existed in the wake of the pandemic.
Cherry Hill Programs, a holiday experience provider that has a network of more than 1,300 Santas across the United States – including three in Cincinnati – required its employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 14, spokeswoman Hope Horwitz told The Enquirer. The company does grant religious and medical exemptions to the mandate, she said, but COVID-19 testing for individuals granted an exemption is required.
Cherry Hill provides Santas to Big Lots on Colerain Avenue, the Eastgate Mall in Union Township, and to the Kenwood Towne Centre.
Rachel Wille, a spokeswoman for Kenwood Towne Centre, confirmed that the mall's Santa will be vaccinated. Kenwood has multiple events with Santa scheduled throughout the rest of the month including: Santa's Traveling Workshop, Santa Magic, Sensory Friendly Holiday Magic and Pet Nights with Santa.
In East Walnut Hills, BonBonerie's Afternoon Tea with Santa event, which is sold out, recommends masks for guests who are unvaccinated, but does not have a vaccine mandate in place for Santa or guests, spokeswoman Kelly Morton said.
At the Cincinnati Museum Center, which hosts Santa and Black Santa at the Holiday Junction featuring Duke Energy Trains, Santas aren't required to receive the vaccine, which is in line with the organization's policy, spokesman Cody Hefner said. The Santa present at the event will be masked and socially-distanced, he added.
"We’re encouraging but not requiring any staff or volunteers to be vaccinated," Hefner said. "Our Santa always wears a mask and interacts with guests through a window around his fireplace so they’re not having direct contact with him."
The Santas who will accept wish lists from children at Washington Park in Over-The-Rhine are all vaccinated, according to Joe Rudemiller, spokesman for 3CDC.
Washington Park will also have the option for socially-distanced visits where kids don't sit on the lap of Santa, Rudemiller said. Washington Park will host Santa's Workshop every weekend from noon to 4 p.m. until Dec. 19. The park will also host Black Santa's Workshop from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
On Oct. 29, the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids aged 5 to 11.
As of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just under 5 million kids in that age group have received at least one dose of the vaccine in the U.S. For kids aged 12 to 17, more than 15 million kids have received at least one dose
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As a whole in the United States, just over 70% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.
For children who are curious if Santa Claus is safe to visit with this year, the nation's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Santa is ready to deliver presents around the world after receiving his COVID-19 booster shot.
“Santa already has great innate immunity," Fauci told USA TODAY. "This year he is even more protected because he has been fully vaccinated and boosted. Santa will be just fine and is good to go!”
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This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Is Santa vaccinated? COVID rules differ at Cincinnati events