Yes. There have been many variants of COVID-19. Sometimes, a virus mutates (changes) and becomes stronger or easier to spread from person to person. For example, the delta and omicron variants have caused COVID-19 infections to spread quickly to more kids and adults.
Fortunately, the COVID-19 vaccine remains an effective tool. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine and if eligible, a booster, also helps stop adults and kids from spreading the virus to others. As more people are fully vaccinated and boosted, cases start to drop and new variants cannot emerge as quickly.
If your child or teen is eligible for a COVID-19 booster, they should get one right away. Everyone 12 years old and up should get a booster if it has been at least 5 months since they completed their primary series of COVID-19 vaccine shots.
What is a variant?
When a virus changes, new variants form and other variants fade away. New variants will continue to emerge. Scientists in the U.S. keep track of all of variants of the virus here and around the world. In the U.S., the omicron variant is now the main variant of the virus causing new COVID-19 cases.
Scientists are learning more about the omicron variant each day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects that anyone with omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don't have symptoms.
We may have new variants, but we also have more tools now. They include:
Vaccines and boosters: Vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from severe illness or hospitalization from COVID-19. Vaccines and boosters also slow transmission and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging.
Masks: Properly fitted face masks for children 2 years of age and older protect us against all variants.
Do delta & omicron affect younger kids?
Yes. The delta variant causes more infections and spreads faster than the other forms of the virus that were infecting people when the pandemic began. The omicron variant is spreading faster than the delta variant. Here is what we know:
We know that children under 5 years old cannot be vaccinated yet. Compared to older kids, children under 4 years old are at most risk of being hospitalized if they are infected. Nearly all of the children who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 illness are not vaccinated.
We know that the COVID-19 vaccines are an important tool against variants.
We know that the delta and omicron variants can infect some fully vaccinated people. This is called a breakthrough infection. Fortunately, fully vaccinated people who do get infected generally have been less likely to need hospital care.
We know how to stop severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19! Everyone who can get vaccinated and boosted should do so right away. When more people are immune, the virus cannot mutate as fast or make other new, more contagious variants. Even people who had COVID-19 illness need to get vaccinated, too.
By doing your part to reduce the risk of spread in your family and community, you are keeping young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, safe during a difficult time. If you have any questions about the vaccine for your child, or about their health or safety, contact your pediatrician. Our focus is on keeping kids healthy and safe, and we are always here to help.