With 76% of the total population having received at least one COVID-19 vaccination, attention has shifted to how we can protect the youngest children. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends COVID-19 vaccination for children aged 6 months through 4 years. This means that approximately 18 million children, or 5.5% of the U.S. population, are now eligible to receive a vaccine. This is an opportunity for the country to catch up to vaccination goals and is a crucial step toward beating the pandemic.

Like adults and teens who contracted COVID-19, children can spread the disease when they are asymptomatic. In addition, although children may have milder symptoms when infected with COVID-19, there are still many cases of children getting severe lung infections and requiring hospitalization. Other complications, such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), may require intensive care or result in long-lasting symptoms. And while children are less likely to have severe illness initially, they are susceptible to long COVID symptoms long after initially recovering from their illness.

Vaccinating your children can help protect them and your family and bring the pandemic to an end faster. Here are the top 5 reasons experts recommend vaccinating your children:

1. COVID-19 vaccines can help prevent your children from getting COVID-19

Everyone is at risk for contracting COVID-19, and symptoms can be severe at any age. Especially considering the more contagious omicron variant, children are at risk for contracting and spreading the virus. The CDC now recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months through 4 years after reviewing research findings from Pfizer showing that their COVID-19 vaccine is effective in reducing the risk of infection and severe COVID-19 illness. The COVID-19 vaccine has been safely administered to millions of children ages 5-17 and shows good protection against infection and severe disease.

2. It can help your family get back to a more normal life

Vaccinating your children reduces their risk of being infected with COVID-19, which can help keep them from being sick. This means that they can stay in school and continue their education uninterrupted, and they will be more likely to be able to participate in sports and clubs and return to fun activities like play dates and spending time with friends outside of the house. Depending on your school’s policies, vaccinated children without symptoms may not be required to quarantine after exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, which also helps keep children in school and parents working uninterrupted.

3. It protects your family, friends and teachers

Vaccination not only reduces the risk of your child becoming infected, but it also slows the spread of the disease by preventing it from being passed onto others at school, like teachers, staff, and school administrators. This means there are less likely to be disruptions in education because of a teacher calling in sick. Vaccinating your child can prevent the spread to other family members as well, especially older adults who are the most vulnerable to severe illness. Lastly, vaccination can protect your children from spreading the virus to their friends.

Because vaccines reduce the likelihood of transmission of the virus, it also reduces the chance for the virus to mutate into variants which might be more infectious or resistant to vaccines. The reduction in infections overall leads to fewer hospitalizations and deaths in the community and slows the emergence of new coronavirus variants such as the omicron variant.

4. It sets an example for others in your community

For decades, vaccines for infectious diseases have been recommended for children and are a mandatory public health measure in many school systems. Parents who are vocal and enthusiastic about vaccinating their kids should encourage others in their community to act as well. Talking to your kids about the benefits of vaccinations may additionally motivate them to spread a positive message among their friends.

A study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that one in five parents will immediately vaccinate their kids under age 5, which will protect other family members, friends and school staff/faculty. You play a critical role in encouraging other parents to vaccinate their kids and make the right decisions for their family.

5. The vaccine is safe

The most recent studies show that the vaccine is safe and effective in the 22 million children aged 5-17 who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. The likelihood of severe side effects from the vaccine are rare, though normal side effects like a sore arm, mild headache, and fatigue, which also occur in adults, can be expected. Additionally, current studies show no long-term effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, but they continue to be studied – this is how science and medicine moves forward.

Some parents have concerns about how quickly the vaccine was developed and approved. Vaccine testing is and has historically been a rigorous process. Policies and scientific consensus changes when new data emerges – this is a good thing which ensures that public health and safety are prioritized.

It’s important to know that scientists did not take risky shortcuts on the science. Because development of a COVID-19 vaccine was such a priority around the world, an incredible number of resources were put into these studies and the scientists worked tirelessly to ensure that standard scientific design was adhered to. Scientists already knew quite a bit about coronaviruses from previous breakouts, and the technology behind mRNA vaccines had been in development for over a decade. The studies were able to be conducted very quickly because so many people volunteered, and the review process was sped up because committee hearings and data reviews were prioritized.

To find out more about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit our vaccine tracker.

Disclaimer: The information in this article was medically reviewed and accurate at the time of posting. Because knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 is constantly evolving, data or insights may have changed. The most recent posts are listed on the EACH Breath blog landing page. You may also visit our COVID-19 section for updated disease information and contact our Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA for COVID-19 questions.

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