Oct 1, 2021, 1:52:56 PM CDT Dec 11, 2023, 3:15:56 PM CST

Breakthrough COVID-19 cases: What parents should know

Yes, breakthrough infections can happen, but vaccines make a big difference in keeping your family healthy

Father and son Father and son

Even as new COVID‑19 variants appear, COVID‑19 vaccines continue to be your and your child's best defense against getting sick from the virus. But “breakthrough cases” can occur – cases where children who are fully vaccinated still get sick.

Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., Director of Infectious Disease at Children's Health℠ and Professor at UT Southwestern, shares the latest information about breakthrough COVID‑19 infections and how they may affect your family's health.

Vaccinated children can still get COVID‑19, but their risk is lower

"The COVID‑19 vaccines aren't perfect, but they're very, very good," says Dr. Kahn.

No vaccine provides 100% protection from disease. Vaccines are one layer of protection. Other factors offer additional layers of protection to reduce your child's risk for COVID‑19 after vaccination, including:

  • Having a healthy immune system
  • Limiting exposure to unvaccinated people who could be infected
  • Living in a community with a lower rate of infection
  • Having your child wear a mask if your community has a high level of COVID‑19, if your child has symptoms or tests positive for COVID‑19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Data Tracker can help you track the number of cases in your community.

Breakthrough infections are a difficult reminder that COVID-19 is still around, but the data is clear that vaccination is the best way to protect your family.
Dr. Jeffrey Kahn

Vaccinated children with a breakthrough infection usually don't get as sick

Although vaccinated children can get COVID‑19, the COVID‑19 vaccines are still highly effective in protecting your children from getting sick. COVID‑19 vaccines are proven to:

  • Reduce severe symptoms
  • Reduce the risk of serious illness
  • Reduce the risk of hospitalization and death

"Breakthrough infections are a difficult reminder that COVID‑19 is still around, but the data is clear that vaccination is the best way to protect your family," says Dr. Kahn. "The vast majority of breakthrough infections are mild. Severe infection requiring hospitalization is quite rare for children who are vaccinated. This speaks to the effectiveness of the vaccines."

Your child can be contagious if they have a breakthrough case of COVID‑19

Experts have found that fully vaccinated people with COVID‑19 breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others. But, according to the CDC, if your child is vaccinated, they may be contagious for a shorter time.

You can help protect your unvaccinated family members

Vaccination is the best protection against COVID‑19. Make sure everyone in your household who's eligible is vaccinated. You can also add more layers of protection, including:

  • Reduce your risk by masking up – If you know you're going to be around large groups of people, especially if those people may be unvaccinated or if you are indoors, consider wearing a mask.
  • Choose safer family activities – Choosing outdoor activities over indoor ones is a great way to lower your risk of getting COVID‑19, especially when the numbers are high in your community.
  • Refocus on tried-and-true habitshandwashing and teaching your child to cover a cough or sneeze with their shirt sleeve both go a long way in preventing the spread of germs.

If your child is exposed to COVID‑19, learn symptoms to watch for and steps to take to prevent the spread of illness.

Learn more about COVID‑19

Children's Health is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID‑19 hub.

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communicable disease, coronavirus, immune system, infectious disease, virus, vaccine

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