Can you vaccinate a child who has recently been exposed to COVID-19 but isn’t showing any symptoms?
A: Although there is no medical reason to wait, there may be practical reasons–it depends on your situation.
It’s safe for your child to go ahead, but you should also follow guidance about isolating to protect others. If your kid gets symptoms after their vaccine, you’ll have to figure out whether they’re vaccine side effects or infection symptoms. If this will cause major stress for you, it may be better to delay a week. And, be sure to do everything you can to protect the clinic staff!
There is no medical reason to wait to vaccinate a child who is feeling well–whether they have a recent COVID-19 exposure or not. Plenty of kids have unknown exposures and safely go ahead with their vaccination anyway. If your kiddo ends up getting COVID-19 from their exposure, the vaccine timing won’t affect the severity of their illness. And, having COVID-19 won’t affect their vaccine effectiveness either.
However, there may be practical reasons to wait. Since vaccination can produce some of the same symptoms as COVID-19 itself, getting a vaccine when you’re already worrying about an exposure could just produce confusion and more worry. It would be hard to know whether any fever, aches, headache, or other symptoms are the result of vaccine side effects or COVID-19 infection.
Also, some sites may ask about recent exposures and ask you to wait. This is to ensure that the clinic staff don’t end up exposed too! For the same reason, if your child is feeling sick and had a recent exposure, they should definitely wait until they’re feeling better.
CDC recommends that a child who is unvaccinated quarantine for 5 days after a known exposure. They also say “if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others.”
Our best advice is to go ahead with the vaccination (if your site allows it), be sure your kid is wearing a good mask at the appointment to protect the clinic staff, and monitor for symptoms. If symptoms do appear after your child has been vaccinated, you should test for COVID-19. This will tell you whether the symptoms are the result of vaccination or infection. The vaccine *cannot* produce a false positive on the test for COVID-19 infection.