Will Our Kids Get Covid Boosters Every Year Like The Annual Flu Shot?
Kids 5 and over are now eligible for a bivalent booster. Will there be an annual version?
Every year, right around the time Halloween candy starts taking over the seasonal aisles of my favorite grocery store, my brain immediately refreshes itself, like a stagnant webpage that was lingering on the search results for “best labor day weekend ideas.” My thoughts become consumed with ordering skeleton pajamas, making sure everyone’s coats still fit, and scheduling flu shot appointments. Now that to-do item has a friend: the Covid booster.
The magic of Covid vaccines still feels a little surreal. When are we going to get them and when will all children be approved to receive them were questions that haunted most parents from, oh, March 2020 until just recently. But even with the news that all children are now eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, there came more questions: When is the best time to get them? Are certain kids more at risk than others? What if they’ve already been exposed to Covid-19? Will they have to get a booster? How often? For every variant?
Will Covid-19 boosters become a routine immunization like the flu shot?
Let’s start with the fact that we still don’t have clarity around the timing and frequency of adult Covid-19 boosters. But with a new variant already making its way through people and everyone prepping for a fall and winter resurgence of Covid-19 cases, many parents welcomed the omicron booster being approved for kids as young as 5. It sounds like a good idea: if your kids are vaccinated and your pediatrician says it’s time, get them boosted.
Pediatrician Dr. Mona Amin tells Romper that, like most things concerning Covid-19, it’s still uncertain whether Covid-19 vaccines will be come like flu vaccines, part of routine immunization and adapted each year to a new variant/strain. But Dr. Amin point out that the CDC currently recommends vaccines for everyone 6 months and older, and boosters for everyone 5 years an older. If your child is 5 or older, they should get a booster if it’s been at least five months since their full vaccine dose.
A fully vaccinated child is the most protected against Covid-19, particularly against severe illness, hospitalization and death.
It may take some time, but the Covid-19 booster should eventually become a routine annual shot, says Dr. Charles Golden, assistant chief medical officer of CHOC, a pediatric healthcare system in Southern California. “The frequency with which we see variants of the virus emerge suggests that we may need to adopt a pattern of immunization similar to the influenza vaccine,” he tells Romper. “More time will be required to follow how the new strains emerge, and how effective current vaccines will continue to be against them in order to make that determination. Until that time, interim guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends Covid-19 vaccines for everyone ages 6 months and older.”
Should parents wait for a new variant or strain before boosting children?
The messaging on boosters has evolved over time, so it’s not surprise we’re all still a little confused. The initial messaging on boosters back in 2021 was that they were something people only needed to get if they were high risk or if there was a new variant. And while boosters are now approved for everyone, questions remain: Do you wait until there’s a new documented variant? Should you hold off until there’s a new wave of cases before boosting your child? Dr. Amin suggests just getting it done (as long as it’s been five months since their vaccination). “It is best to stay up to date on vaccination and boosters available at the current moment versus waiting for a new variant. Sometimes, that can be too late as we do not know what future variants will do,” she tells Romper.
The CDC and ACIP have already weighed the risks and benefits of waiting for a new surge versus giving the vaccine as soon as a person is eligible, says Dr. Golden. “While it is true that antibody levels tend to rise early after someone is vaccinated, followed by a decline in those levels several months thereafter, waiting to maximize your child’s immunity could leave them under-protected should a surge or new variant occur sooner than expected. With that in mind, the recommendation that we give to families is to give your child the dose of vaccine when it is due to maximize their protection. A fully vaccinated child is the most protected against Covid-19, particularly against severe illness, hospitalization and death.”
Should kids get the Covid-19 booster if they are sick or recently had Covid?
This time of year is always fraught with a cornucopia of stuffy noses and mucus-streaked cheeks. While it’s uncertain if Covid-19 boosters will become the annual norm like a flu vaccine, Dr. Amin does say you should hold off on getting your child the booster if they’re not feeling well. “If your child has a fever, I would hold off on vaccinating until fever-free and fever-reducing medicine free for 24 hours.”
If your child has recently had Covid-19, Dr. Amin says it’s best to wait a minimum of 10 days from the positive test and they should have improving symptoms and no fever for 24 hours before proceeding with the vaccination. You should your pediatrician when they think your child should get the next booster, but don’t assume your kid is protected from future infection because they’ve had Covid-19. “Vaccine immunity has been proven to be longer lasting than natural immunity,” Dr. Amin says.
Dr. Charles Golden, assistant chief medical officer of CHOC, a pediatric healthcare system in Southern California, and vice president and executive medical director of the CHOC Primary Care Network