Does my child need a COVID-19 vaccine?

More than one million people in the United States have died from COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), a sickness caused by a highly contagious virus named SARS-CoV-2. While the risk of death is highest for elderly people, more than 1,600 children in the U.S. are known to have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 usually causes respiratory symptoms similar to a cold, the flu, or pneumonia, including shortness of death or difficulty breathing, cough, congestion, or runny nose. Symptoms may also include fever or chills, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Some people, including children, can get very sick from COVID-19, and some can develop post-COVID conditions (Long COVID). Children who are immunocompromised or have chronic medical conditions such as congenital heart disease, obesity, diabetes, asthma, chronic lung disease, or sickle cell disease can be at risk of more severe illness from this virus. Pregnant people are also at increased risk of severe complications from COVID-19.

Who should get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Children 6 months of age and older should receive the COVID-19 vaccine since sickness from COVID-19 can lead to serious complications, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP ) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Children ages 6 months through 4 years who receive a COVID-19 vaccine for the first time should receive two or three doses, depending on which formulation is given; parents should consult their child's pediatrician and consider the availability of vaccines when deciding what to give. Children ages 5 and older should receive one dose of the updated 2023-2024 vaccine.

Children 6 months and older should get an updated COVID-19 vaccine as recommended, regardless of past vaccination status or prior illness with COVID-19. Someone who has had COVID-19 can consider waiting three months from illness to get vaccinated but should still get the updated vaccine.

How to reduce risk of COVID-19

In addition to vaccination, the top tip for reducing the risk of COVID-19 illness is good hygiene. Handwashing, using tissues or elbows to cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding touching the face are important strategies for reducing the risk of COVID-19 and other viruses.

If your child does come down with COVID-19, speak with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to review current recommendations for isolation, mask-wearing, and follow-up testing. Also, while no antiviral medication for COVID-19 is available for children younger than 12, your child's pediatrician may wish to review which symptoms would necessitate a quick trip to the emergency room.

Last updated January 29, 2024

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