What you need to know
- Revised guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) encourages countries to focus on vaccinating and boosting people at highest risk of severe COVID-19.
- The updated recommendation is not a vote against vaccines for children and teens.
- The CDC, which provides guidance specific to the U.S., continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccines and bivalent boosters for kids as young as 6 months.
Last week, WHO revised its COVID-19 vaccine guidance to recommend that countries focus on vaccinating and boosting individuals who are at high risk for severe disease. Some people have used this news to wrongly claim that the international health agency now recommends ending COVID-19 vaccination for healthy young people. Below, we explain exactly what WHO’s new guidance says, why it was revised, and what it means for children and teens.
What does WHO’s new COVID-19 vaccine guidance say?
The new WHO guidance encourages countries to focus on vaccinating and boosting people at highest risk of severe disease, including older adults, immunocompromised individuals, and people with underlying health conditions. The new guidance puts healthy kids in a low priority group for COVID-19 vaccination since it is rare for them to experience serious illness. Instead, WHO recommends that countries prioritize getting healthy kids vaccinated against diseases that are more dangerous to them, such as rotavirus and measles.
Why did WHO revise its COVID-19 vaccine guidance?
WHO’s updated recommendation is not a vote against vaccines for children and teens. In fact, the new guidance confirms that “primary and booster doses are safe and effective in children and adolescents.” But the pandemic has changed, so guidance evolves, too. Many people now have some sort of immunity against COVID-19. Many countries also have limited financial resources and health care capacities. WHO’s revised COVID-19 vaccine guidance helps countries around the world prioritize their time, resources, and efforts at this stage of the pandemic so that the most vulnerable people are protected.
Should I still get my kid vaccinated and boosted?
Yes. While WHO’s new guidance is informative, its goal is to address the different situations that countries around the world face rather than directly inform the American public. The CDC, which provides guidance specific to the U.S., currently recommends COVID-19 vaccines and bivalent boosters for kids as young as 6 months. Healthy young people don’t receive as much added benefit from COVID-19 boosters as high-risk people do, but staying up to date on vaccines is still the best way for anyone to be protected against the virus. It’s also important to know that while kids are relatively unlikely to experience severe disease from COVID-19, the virus is still a leading cause of death among children in the U.S.