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Does the COVID vaccine protect kids from the omicron variant?

Katherine Williamson, MD, FAAP

Answer

​Yes. The COVID vaccine is the most effective way to protect babies, kids and adults from severe illness or hospitalization and may help protect against long-term problems if they get infected. Getting the COVID vaccine and the updated booster, when eligible, helps all of us. Lowering viral spread means fewer new variants, which protects your family and your community.

There have been many virus variants since the original SARS-CoV-2 strain of COVID emerged in 2019. Sometimes, a virus mutates (changes) and becomes stronger or easier to spread from person to person.

For example, the delta and omicron variants caused COVID infections to spread more quickly to more kids and adults. Unfortunately, for many children and teens, the virus has caused serious illness, hospitalization and death. Some kids have developed chronic symptoms after COVID infection, such as long-haul COVID, chronic fatigue, fevers, pain and mental health problems. There also may be an increased risk of type-1 diabetes in children who had COVID.

With the omicron variant spreading this fall and winter, everyone who is eligible should get an updated booster dose if it has been at least 2 months since they received their last dose of COVID vaccine, whether it was the primary series or an original (monovalent) booster.

What is a variant?

When a virus changes, new variants form and other variants fade away. Omicron became the main variant of the virus causing COVID cases in late December 2021. Scientists in the U.S. keep track of variants of COVID, influenza and other viruses here and around the world.

Fortunately, we now know more about COVID, including which tools work. They include:

  • Vaccines and updated boosters: COVID vaccines protect against the original COVID strain, and boosters enhance immunity to the original strain and the omicron variant. This helps to slow down the spread of the virus and reduces the likelihood of new variants emerging.

  • Masks: Wearing properly fitted face masks is an effective way to help protect children age 2 years and up and adults against many respiratory illnesses that spread during the fall and winter months.

  • Tests: There are many types of COVID tests. Talk to your pediatrician if you have questions.

Does COVID affect babies and young kids?

Yes! That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommend the COVID vaccine for almost all babies (age 6 months and up), children and teens. Here's what we know:

  • We know that right now there is not a COVID vaccine to protect babies under 6 months old.

  • We know that children under 5 years old are at higher risk of being hospitalized if they get infected, compared to older kids. COVID vaccines for children age 6 months and older and updated boosters for eligible children and teens are live-saving tools.

  • We know that vaccines are effective at protecting people from getting very sick and dying. While vaccinated people can still get COVID which is called a breakthrough infection, they are significantly less sick and much less likely to be hospitalized if they are vaccinated.

  • We know that the vaccine also helps to protect people from reinfection if they had a COVID infection. Reinfection is what happens when a person was infected, got better and got infected again later. The CDC is continuing to study reinfections, how often they occur and who is at risk. When more people are vaccinated, the virus cannot mutate as fast or make new or more contagious variants or subvariants.

Remember

When people receive the COVID vaccine and updated booster, the risk of COVID is reduced for others in your family and community. You are helping to keep babies, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems protected. If you have any questions about vaccines for your child, talk with your pediatrician. Our focus is on keeping kids healthy and safe, and we are always here to help.

More information

Katherine Williamson, MD, FAAP

Katherine Williamson, MD, FAAP, is president of the Orange County Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is a Primary Care Network Informaticist at Children’s Hospital of Orange County.​​​ Follow her on Twitter and Facebook​: @kate4kidsmd​​​

Last Updated
10/4/2022
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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