Coronavirus Outbreak | Overview
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms can range from mild (or even no symptoms) to severe. Adults and older people with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease are more likely to develop serious illness, while children tend to develop milder illness. Researchers are learning more and more about how to prevent and treat COVID-19 every day.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are different for everyone but may include:
- sore throat
- shortness of breath
- body aches
- loss of taste and/or smell
For some people, the symptoms may feel like a bad cold or flu. Others, especially adults with other health conditions, may have severe respiratory symptoms that could progress to pneumonia. Some patients require hospitalization and breathing assistance.
In addition, if your child exhibits any of the symptoms that could be related to multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (see below), always call your pediatrician.Learn more about COVID-19 symptoms.
Although many people have mild to moderate symptoms, COVID-19 can be life threating to you and those around you. Older adults and those with pre-existing health problems (such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer) are at increased risk of getting very sick. Currently, there is no way to determine who will experience more severe disease and require medical attention.
Children are less likely to experience severe symptoms. However, COVID-19 may cause other illnesses such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome. The vaccine is the best way to prevent these illnesses in all ages.
To help slow the spread, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking everyone to take some important steps, including:
- Get Vaccinated: As of June 2022, everyone 6 months of age and older is eligible for the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, and the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent hospitalizations and death.
- Wear a mask: Wearing a face mask is still important to protect you and others. You should wear a face mask indoors in public places regardless of vaccine status. Although the virus does not spread as readily outdoors, we recommend wearing a mask if you can’t maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or if you are in close proximity to others with unknown vaccination status. When choosing a mask, look at how well it fits, how well it filters the air, and how many layers it has. Learn more about improving how your mask protects you.
- Practice physical distancing: Outside your home maintain six feet of distance between yourself and people who do not live in your household. It is possible for a person to spread the virus even if they are not showing signs or symptoms of illness.
- Practice good hand and respiratory hygiene: Be sure to wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol based hand rub especially before eating. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because the virus can enter through those areas. Always remember to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Prevent the spread by staying home if you are sick.
The vaccine is the most effective way to keep those around you safe.
If your child (or anyone else in your family) has any symptoms, you’ll need to stay at home and avoid being around other people. If possible, keep your child in a room where they won’t have contact with other family members or use common household items. Many grocery stores, restaurants, and pharmacies are now offering contactless deliveries.
Currently, there is no cure for COVID-19, but vaccines can prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death.
COVID-19 continues to be a rapidly changing situation. The CDC COVID-19 website offers the most up-to-date information.
The New York State Health Department website also has state-specific information about COVID-19 and links to many helpful resources for families. For specific questions about your child, contact your doctor's office.
During this challenging time, children and parents may be feeling a lot of stress. Learn how to cope with the stresses caused by changes to your daily routine, worries about your health and well-being, and worries about the health of family members. Learn more here!
Boosters are recommended for all children over 6 months of age who have received their primary doses of the COVID vaccine. However, there can be some confusion about when and what booster to get.
As of Dec 2022, all boosters are bivalent. Bivalent boosters protect against 2 strains of coronavirus, including the OMICRON strain.
All children need to receive their primary doses of COVID-19 vaccine first which provides a base of protection against severe disease, including hospitalizations and death. Children who are over 6 months of age are eligible for a booster only after all primary doses are taken.
Your child is eligible for the bivalent booster EITHER 2 months after the completion of their primary series OR 2 months after receiving their monovalent booster (Prior boosters were monovalent and protected against the original COVID-19 strains).
The recommendations for children with a compromised immune system are different. Please call your pediatrician to discuss your child’s specific situation if they are immune compromised.
For an easy way to find out if your child needs a booster, click here to use the CDC’s “Find out when to get a booster” tool.
FAQs for 6 months – 5 years
Yes. We are still seeing smaller waves of sub variants. We will likely continue to see omicron variants and possibly new variants throughout summer and into fall. We anticipate that COVID viruses will fall into a regular “winter surge” pattern, as we see with other viruses such as RSV and influenza.
In the beginning of the pandemic, we were seeing mostly adults contracting illness. Now that kids are back in school and camp, predominantly without masks, we are seeing a dramatic shift. Adults now carry immunity due to the vaccine and natural infection and young kids are bearing the burden of COVID-19 infections. In the winter of 2022, there were 5 times as many COVID-related pediatric hospitalizations than the previous winter. In 2022, the CDC reported that COVID-19 is the 4th leading cause of death in children under 1 year of age and the 5th leading cause in children 1-4 years of age. In children under 5 years old, it is the number one infection that causes death in children. Thankfully, it is now a vaccine preventable disease.
- The Pfizer vaccine for children 6 months to 4 years is about a third of the dose given to kids 5 years and over.
- The Moderna vaccine for children 6 months to 5 years is half the dose given to children 6 -11 years old.
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both proved to be very safe in the studies for young children. Like most vaccines, pain, swelling, and redness at injection site were the most common local side effects. These side effects were reported more frequently in the vaccine groups versus the placebo groups but the vast majority were graded as mild to moderate. For both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, pain was the most common local side effect and was reported in 15-30% of recipients for the Pfizer vaccine, and 30-70% of recipients for the Moderna vaccine. They also studied more systemic reactions such as irritability and loss of appetite which were reported more frequently in the vaccine groups compared with the placebo groups but were also predominantly graded as mild to moderate.
Moderna’s study did find that 22% of children who received the vaccine reported a fever. This is not necessarily a bad thing because fever tells us the immune system is responding to the vaccine. However, if your child has a history of febrile seizures or is specifically sensitive to fevers, you may want to monitor them closely or opt for the Pfizer vaccine. The fevers reported in the study generally appeared within two days of vaccination and did not last more than one day.
- The COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in preventing serious infection, complications, and death related to COVID-19.
- When looking at prevention of symptomatic disease in 6 month to 5 year olds such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing, Pfizer was about 80% effective and Moderna was about 30%-50% effective. Both vaccines are effective in preventing hospitalization and other serious illness.
- Everyone over the age of 6 months should get vaccinated and stay up to date on their boosters. We are still seeing illness in the warmer months and we believe case counts are largely underestimated due to home testing. We are seeing deaths in children so it is extremely important to do anything you can to prevent illness whether your child has an underlying condition or not.
- For kids under 6 months of age, maternal antibodies are transferred through the placenta if mothers get vaccinated during pregnancy.
- Our advice is to vaccinate with whichever vaccine is readily available as soon as possible.
- Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are safe and effective.
- If your child has a history of febrile seizures, you may want to choose Pfizer if given the option.
- If you know you have travel, or a large gathering coming up soon, you may want to choose Moderna to reach higher protective antibody levels sooner if given the option.
- If your child has a specific medical condition that you are concerned about, talk to your pediatrician.
- As soon as possible! There is no reason to wait or delay.
- Billions of mRNA vaccines have been administered throughout the world and have proven to be safe and effective. They are the best way to protect your child from the potentially severe consequences of COVID-19.
Keeping patients safe
We want you to know that our offices at Boston Children’s Health Physicians are safe and ready to care for you and your family.
- All patients and families are screened for their risk of COVID-19 before coming into the office.
- Our locations utilize Phreesia, a mobile check in solution, to limit time spent at the reception desk.
- Our waiting rooms have been eliminated or configured to allow for social distancing.
- Our employees are wearing medical masks and heightened personal protective equipment.
- All adults and children over the age of 2 who enter a BCHP office are be required to wear a face-covering and have their temperature taken.
- Physical barriers are present at all reception desks.
- Toys, reading materials, and other communal objects are removed from waiting areas.
- Diligent cleaning of medical equipment, doorknobs, counters, bathrooms, etc. takes place frequently throughout the day.
SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing
Many families would like to know if their child has been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. Antibody testing, also called serology testing, is a simple blood test that can determine if antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 are present in the blood. Antibodies develop usually weeks after the body has been exposed to the virus so antibody testing is not a test for active infection.
Although antibody tests are currently available through many commercial laboratories, at this time BCHP does not recommend routine antibody testing for all patients. There are a number of reasons for this decision, including:
- Since COVID-19 is such a new illness, we don’t yet know if the antibodies will protect a child from getting COVID-19 again. For some illnesses, antibodies offer life-long protection, however, in other cases, antibodies offer only limited protection, or even no protection, against future infection.
- If the antibodies do offer protection, it is also unknown how long that protection will last.
- There are many misleading results from antibody tests for COVID-19. A negative test does not rule out past infection, and a positive test does not mean that a child is immune to COVID-19. Essentially, neither a positive test or a negative test will change behavior recommendations.
Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C)
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children is a serious illness related to COVID-19 that has been seen in a small number of children. It affects a number of organs, including the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, gastrointestinal system, skin, and eyes.
The most common symptoms of this disease include persistent fevers, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, headaches, and swollen hands and feet. However, it is important to note that this condition may present differently in each child.
Always call your pediatrician if you notice these symptoms or have any concerns.
At Boston Children’s Health Physicians, we are following all of the state and federal guidelines to ensure the safety of our patients and staff.
If you suspect your child has COVID-19, call your pediatrician’s office for advice. Many of our clinicians are now seeing patients remotely through virtual or telehealth visits (these are visits done right from your home) whenever possible to avoid the spread of germs in our facilities. Your doctor will decide if a COVID-19 test is necessary and if so, will tell you how to proceed with testing.
A virtual visit, which can be done using a smartphone, tablet, or computer, can also be an appropriate option for diagnosing colds, flus, allergies, and other health concerns, as well as managing chronic conditions and prescription refills.
For complex or urgent needs that require a face-to-face visit, we continue to have staff available for in-person appointments. We are following the latest safety practices to ensure our waiting and exam rooms are free from germs. We are also strictly limiting the number of patients we see in person as part of our commitment to physical distancing. For patients scheduled for non-urgent procedures or exams, check with your physician to reschedule.
COVID-19 parent webinar recordings
Want to learn more about COVID-19? Watch a recording of one of our free parent webinar sessions!