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Question

Do kids who test positive for COVID still need the vaccine, and when can they get it?

James D. Campbell, MD, MS, FAAP

Answer

Eligible children and teens should get a COVID vaccine or booster, even if they already had COVID-19. They should get vaccinated as soon as they are recovered from their illness and their isolation period has ended.

If your child has had COVID, they may be protected for some time from another infection. But right now, we do not have a test to reliably check how much or how long a person is protected after they get better. We know that people who have recovered from a COVID infection can still get infected again with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

According to a recent report, vaccination is the safest strategy for avoiding future SARS-CoV-2 infections, hospitalizations, long-term problems and death.

Does it matter if they had symptoms or not?

If your child or teen had a positive test but did not have symptoms, they should wait until they are done isolating and then get vaccinated. If they had mild COVID illness, they can get the vaccine after their isolation period has ended, as long as their symptoms have improved.

Isolate or quarantine: What's the difference?

These two public health steps can prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

  • Quarantine and stay away from others when you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

  • Isolate if you are sick or have tested positive for COVID-19, even if you don't have symptoms.

Do they still need another dose if they test positive for COVID after one shot?

Yes. If your child or teen received the first dose and then tested positive for COVID-19, they should still get the second dose.

If they did not have symptoms (asymptomatic) but had a positive test: they should get the vaccine after the recommended isolation period has ended.

If they had symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19: they should get the vaccine after their recommended isolation period has ended, their symptoms have improved and they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

If they are 12 years or older, had already received 2 doses of vaccine and then tested positive for COVID: They should get a booster dose if it has been at least five months since they completed their primary series and, as above, they are no longer in isolation and their symptoms are improving.

If they received monoclonal antibodies for COVID illness: They should get the COVID vaccine as soon as they have completed isolation, symptoms are improving and they are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication. There is no longer a waiting period to get the COVID vaccine after a child or teen has received monoclonal antibodies for COVID illness.

What if my child or teen needed hospital care for COVID illness?

Your pediatrician or pediatric specialist can provide vaccine guidance after recovering from multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) or serious COVID illness that required hospital care.

If you are have questions about the COVID vaccine or booster after severe COVID illness, talk to your pediatrician.

Remember

We have come very far since the pandemic began. We now have effective tools to beat this virus—and keep everyone around us safe. But it will only work if we all do our part. Using all of these tools—vaccines, masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, testing and staying home when we are sick—will bring us across the finish line of the pandemic.

More information

James D. Campbell, MD, MS, FAAP

James D. Campbell, MD, MS, FAAP, a pediatric infectious disease specialist based in Maryland, serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases.

Last Updated
2/17/2022
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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