When Should Kids Under 5 Get The Vaccine If They Recently Had COVID?

Pediatricians explain how to time the shots if your child tested positive in the last few months.
Should you wait to vaccinate your child if they recently had COVID-19? Here's what to consider.
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Should you wait to vaccinate your child if they recently had COVID-19? Here's what to consider.

After months of delays, kids under the age of 5 finally became eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in June. So far, more than 267,000 children in this age group have received their first dose.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the use of two vaccines for young children last month: the three-dose Pfizer vaccine for kids 6 months to 4 years old and the two-dose Moderna vaccine for kids 6 months to 5 years old, both of which were also recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The shots have been found to be both safe and effective. While they may not prevent your child from getting COVID-19, they do produce a significant antibody response that’s expected to guard against severe illness. Side effects in young children have generally been mild and short-lived, usually resolving within 24 hours.

Now that the vaccine rollout is underway, parents may have questions — like should you get your kid vaccinated if they’ve already had COVID-19? And if so, when? Here’s what to know:

You should get your child vaccinated against COVID, even if they were infected in the past.

First, know that vaccination is, indeed, recommended for kids who have had a prior COVID-19 infection. In fact, hybrid immunity — immune protection formed from a combination of vaccination and prior infection — is believed to be more protective than either of those things alone.

“Vaccinating children against COVID-19 helps prevent children from getting seriously ill, decreases hospitalizations and complications of COVID-19,” pediatrician Dr. Jen Trachtenberg — assistant clinical professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai — told HuffPost. “Remember there is no way to know which child might become very sick or develop complications ahead of time. The known risks of COVID-19 and possible severe complications outweigh the potential risks of having a rare, adverse reaction to vaccination.”

If your child recently had COVID, you may opt to delay vaccination for a little bit (at least until they’ve recovered).

According to the CDC website, vaccination can be delayed three months from the onset of symptoms. If your child did not have symptoms, then you can wait three months from when they tested positive.

At a minimum, you would need to wait five days, assuming your kid no longer has a fever without the use of ibuprofen or acetaminophen and their symptoms have subsided. If their symptoms have not improved, they should continue to isolate at home, per CDC guidelines, and get the shot once they’re feeling better.

That said, don’t wait too long to get them vaccinated.

The three-month guideline is “a ‘may’ and not an absolute,” as Dr. Mona Amin, the pediatrician behind @PedsDocTalk on Instagram, pointed out on her website.

“The idea is natural infection can give you two to three months of protection, but this is not for certain in the pediatric world and with new variants — so you could vaccinate as soon as recovered from COVID and no more than three months post-COVID,” she wrote, noting that she would personally recommend vaccinating within six weeks of infection “given the current state of variants and reinfection.”

We don’t yet know what post-infection vaccination timeline results in the “optimal immune response” to the shot, pediatrician Dr. Kelly Fradin, author of “Parenting in a Pandemic,” told HuffPost. She recommends getting your child vaccinated between one and three months after testing positive, depending on your family’s circumstances.

“I have encouraged families to pursue vaccination early, close to one month, when their risk of exposure is high, [like when] preparing for international travel, or when their risk from COVID is high — e.g., an immunosuppressed family member in the home,” she said. “Other families can wait until closer to three months if they prefer.”

Trachtenberg said she’d suggest waiting two to three months after a child’s COVID-19 infection to get the shot. However, she also recognizes that families’ calendars — vacations, summer camps and when they go back to school or day care — may play a role in the timing of vaccination.

“If it seems unlikely or for personal circumstances they won’t be able to get it by three months, I would have them get it as soon as possible after the child’s isolation period,” Trachtenberg said.

If you’re ever unsure about a vaccination timeline, talk with your child’s doctor to get their recommendation.

Trachtenberg recommends starting to have these conversations with your pediatrician now so you can come up with a plan to get your kids fully vaccinated by the fall.

If your child was recently sick with something other than COVID-19, “they absolutely can and should proceed with vaccination once they are feeling better,” MedStar Health pediatrician Tia Ragland Medley told HuffPost.

And in case you were wondering, your child can get the COVID-19 vaccine on the same day as other shots.

“There has been no evidence of any contraindication with receiving the routine vaccinations, including flu, along with the COVID vaccine,” Medley said.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about the vaccine or how to time it, speak with your family’s doctor.

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.

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