For kids all the way down to 6 months, it’s never too late to give your child the gift of protection against an infectious disease that has killed more than 1,400 children in the U.S. and hospitalized many more.
New real world data show that the COVID-19 vaccine protects against infection and *dramatically* lowers the risk of hospitalization in kids aged 5-11 (see link below).
It felt like we had been waiting FOREVER, but in the 3 months since vaccines were authorized for under 5s, only 8% of that group in the US have had their first shot.
(*Note these rates vary considerably across states, ranging from 2% to 32%).
About 38% of US kids ages 5-11 have had at least one shot (31% completed 2 doses), still leaving a lot of room for improvement. Among children vaccine take-up is currently highest for 12–17-year-olds, with 67% receiving at least one dose (58% receiving two doses).
We know many kids have already gotten a COVID-19 infection, especially with the Omicron waves. Parents might wonder if a vaccine post-infection is still necessary or helpful?
The good news is that if your child has already had COVID-19 (and been lucky enough to not have a severe outcome), that previous infection *does* protect against re-infection and dramatically lowers hospitalization risk if your child is re-infected. But there are still good reasons to get vaccinated after a previous infection, since “hybrid immunity” gives immunity benefits above and beyond infection or vaccination alone.
In the recent study, previously infected kids who were also vaccinated had the lowest risk of infection over the follow-up period—lower than infected but unvaccinated kids. As with the vaccines, immunity from infection seems to wane after a few months. For minimizing your child’s total number of infections, getting vaccinated after a previous infection is still a good idea.
Since we don’t know how repeated hits with COVID will affect longer term health, reducing that total number is wise. Not only will your child get sick less often, but the risks of transmission to the rest of your family (and society) will also be less. In the longer run, we anticipate an annual booster cycle more similar to flu shots.
How long should you wait after an infection to get vaccinated? Currently there is no hard and fast rule, but immunity against re-infection seems to wane around 3-4 months after infection. Waiting at least 3 months can help your immune system learn from the past infection while still getting a boost from the vaccine (if your antibodies are already super high from a recent infection, the boost is not likely to provide much additional protection).
Kids over aged 12 who have completed their primary series are also eligible for the new updated bivalent COVID shots, even if they have already had a booster shot. The updated shot is recommended for those at least 2 months past their most recent shot (but waiting 3-4 months might be best for stretching out immunity).
The new shots are better matched to currently circulating Omicron variants so should protect better against infection (until the next variant comes around, of course).
Authorization of the updated vaccines for 5–11-year-olds is expected very soon, so hang on if your kiddo is in that age group and ready for their booster.
While the percentage is low, over 1.4 million children under age 5 in the US have already had the COVID vaccine, as have 10.8 million children ages 5-11. We know from this experience that the vaccines are extremely safe. COVID-19 infection, on the other hand, is much risker.
This is important because a decision to *not* vaccinate your child is still an active decision. Rather than a “natural” choice, this is a choice to leave your child in the path of a serious infection unprotected.
We know that many of our readers have vaccinated their children (and boosted themselves) already. Now is the time to get the word out as trusted messengers in your own communities and networks—share your experience and intentions about getting vaccinated when you get the chance. Let’s get those childhood vaccination rates up heading in to this next COVID winter!
Those Nerdy Girls
“Covid vaccination rates in US children under five lag despite effectiveness”
Dr. Jeremy Faust does an excellent break-down of the stats for experiencing a bad COVID outcome relative to the low risk of vaccine associated myocarditis
Current stats on childhood vaccination from American Academy of Pediatrics
Recent study on vaccine effectiveness in 5-11 year olds in the New England Journal of Medicine