A Pediatrician’s Guidance for Protecting Your Child From COVID-19

Part two of our conversation with Dr. Elias Kass

Parenting during a pandemic can feel like an emotional roller coaster. There are highs, like when the vaccine got authorized for kids ages 5 to 11. But with each high, a low seems to follow. The omicron variant is impacting families across Washington — and hospitalization rates among children under five reached new highs in January. The uncertainty feels never-ending.

We’re back with Dr. Elias Kass, a naturopathic doctor at Intergalactic Pediatrics in Seattle. Last time, Dr. Kass discussed the decision to vaccinate your child against COVID-19. This week, we’re covering questions around COVID-19 infections, boosters, and the latest news on vaccine eligibility for young children.

Welcome back, Dr. Kass. As COVID-19 spreads among children, parents may be wondering how safe their vaccinated children are from infection. Does vaccine protection wane (decrease over time) among kids?

There hasn’t been enough time to determine this. While it does seem like a long time ago, COVID-19 vaccines were just authorized for kids ages 5–11 in late October, which was just a few months ago.

While I have seen some breakthrough infections in kids, parents shouldn’t feel discouraged. The vaccine decreases the chances of your child having a severe illness or dying from COVID-19. We see less hospitalization among vaccinated children.

Why is the vaccine important if kids can still get infected?

The vaccine is doing its job at protecting children from severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization, and death. It also provides greater protection against multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), a rare, but scary illness that can happen after a COVID-19 infection.

In fact, new studies find that the benefits of the kids’ vaccine are even better than we previously thought, and the safety record is strong.

What should I do if my kid has a breakthrough infection?

You should keep them home. If you can, keep them away from others in the household. Notify their school or child care provider and any other close contacts. Tell their doctor.

Reassure them that they’re not a bad person for having gotten sick. Remind them that this is a very contagious disease. Getting sick can happen, even when you’re doing all the right things.

Check them for symptoms and watch their breathing. Infections, especially among vaccinated children, are generally mild.

Keep COVID-19 tests on hand, so others in the household can get tested. Create a plan for your household to monitor for symptoms; and to isolate if needed.

We know COVID-19 boosters are recommended to increase protection among adults. When will kids become eligible for boosters?

There is a confusing distinction between boosters and third doses. Right now, boosters are recommended for kids who are 12 and older. We don’t have enough information on if or when boosters will be recommended for younger children who are not immunocompromised, but my guess is that we’ll know more in the spring (about six months after the initial 5–11 authorization).

We know that some people with immunocompromise don’t respond strongly to the initial two doses, and a third dose is recommended for them. Everyone 5 and up who has moderate or severe immunocompromise should get a third dose. This is considered part of their primary series, not a booster. The CDC recommends moderately or severely immunocompromised 5–11-year-olds receive an additional primary dose of the Pfizer vaccine 28 days after their second shot. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about whether your child qualifies.

Let’s talk about babies and toddlers that are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. What recommendations do you have for keeping them safe?

As a parent of a young child, I can relate. It’s frustrating to wait, especially as the rest of society seems eager to move on.

While waiting for a vaccine, there are still precautious that you can take to protect them. Children over two should continue to wear well-fitted masks, as should those interacting with them. Talk with your childcare providers about the importance of continuing to wear masks, even when the mask mandate ends. Use ventilation (fresh air) and air filters to reduce the amount of virus that may be in the air. Choose outside activities when possible. Hand washing is still important. Follow your gut when it comes to daily activities. In this surge, I personally stopped taking my kids to the grocery store.

If your child is showing any symptoms, keep them home, test them, and follow isolation guidance.

We’ll close with the question that’s top of mind for many parents. When will the vaccine be available for kids under 5?

It could happen in the next few months. Pfizer has started submitting data to the FDA from their clinical trials on the vaccine for children ages 6 months to 4 years of age. Moderna is also preparing to submit data for their younger age groups.!

In my opinion, it might be that the FDA seems to be treating this vaccine more like a traditional full approval rather than a vaccine needing emergency use authorization. That would mean they’re looking for bigger trials, bigger numbers, and better efficacy. Because of the way the virus has evolved and the timing of the trials, that would mean comparing performance in the time of omicron against the way the adult vaccines performed with an earlier version of the virus. It can be frustrating, as I know many parents and providers, myself included, would prefer a vaccine as soon as possible.

More Information

This blog is accurate as of the date of posting. Information changes rapidly, so check the state’s COVID-19 website for the most up-to-date info at coronavirus.wa.gov. You can also sign up to be notified whenever we post new articles.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to everyone 5 and older. For more information about the vaccine, visit CovidVaccineWA.org and use the vaccine locator tool to find an appointment. The COVID-19 vaccine is provided at no cost to you.

WA Notify can alert you if you’ve been near another user who tested positive for COVID-19. Add WA Notify to your phone today: WANotify.org

Find answers to your questions or concerns about COVID-19 in Washington state at our website. You can also contact the Department of Health call center at 1–800–525–0127 and press # from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday — Sunday and observed state holidays. Language assistance is available.

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Washington State Department of Health

Washington State Department of Health

Protecting and improving the health of people in Washington State.