Young children with Covid antibodies due to a prior infection should still get fully vaccinated, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky recommended Wednesday.
Like many other infectious diseases, people previously sickened with Covid have some form of protection against getting infected again, but scientists still don’t know how long that immunity lasts or how robust it is, Walensky said.
A CDC study published Friday, which looked at more than 7,000 people hospitalized with Covid-like illnesses, found Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines provided better protection against the coronavirus than a prior infection. Unvaccinated people who had recovered from Covid were about five times more likely to test positive for Covid than people who had received both shots of the mRNA vaccines and had no previous documented infection, according to the study.
“And so we absolutely recommend that children, even children who have had the disease before, get vaccinated,” Walensky said Wednesday during a White House press briefing on the pandemic.
Walensky’s comments came a day after she cleared distributing doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to children ages 5 to 11. As many as 28 million kids in the U.S. are now eligible to get vaccinated, according to the White House.
Children are generally less likely than adults to suffer from severe cases of Covid, but a small portion of them do, public health officials and pediatricians say.
There have been at least 1.9 million Covid cases in the age group, 8,300 hospitalizations and at least 94 deaths, according to data shared by the CDC on Tuesday. At least 2,316 of them have suffered from multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious Covid-related complication, according to the agency.
Federal scientists estimated that as many as 40% of children ages 5 to 11 have already been infected with Covid.
The Biden administration said it’s procured enough vaccine to inoculate all 28 million 5- to 11-year-olds in the U.S. and will distribute it in smaller dosing and with smaller needles to make it easier for pediatricians and pharmacists to administer to kids.
The administration last week already began moving 15 million doses from Pfizer’s freezers and facilities to distribution centers.
Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Wednesday there will be “millions more doses” transported over the next 24 hours to cities and towns across the country. Packing and shipping will continue over the weekend and into next week, with doses arriving at thousands of vaccination sites in every state, tribe and territory, he said.