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Children can get omicron even if they’ve already had COVID-19

Even if your child has recently had COVID-19, researchers say natural immunity may not be enough to protect against the omicron variant

SHARE Children can get omicron even if they’ve already had COVID-19
An illustration of the omicron COVID-19 variant.

Illustration by Alex Cochran, Deseret News

Has your child recently been infected with COVID-19? A study published in Nature Communications found that children aren’t necessarily immune to the omicron variant, even if they have been recently infected with COVID-19.

Participants: The study monitored 177 children who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in 2020 and early 2021, before omicron developed.

  • Researchers took blood samples from the children and exposed them to samples of different virus variants, including omicron, according to Harvard Medical School.

What we know: Results showed that less than 10% of children involved in the study showed antibodies that protected them from omicron.

  • The study also revealed that children under the age of 5 hospitalized with COVID-19 had less neutralizing antibodies against omicron than children over the age of 5.
  • “Overall, children and adolescents show some loss of cross-neutralization against all variants, with the most pronounced loss against Omicron. In contrast to SARS-CoV-2 infection, children vaccinated twice demonstrated higher titers against Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron,” the study reads.

Vaccinations v. natural immunity: “I hear parents say, oh, my kid had COVID last year,” Adrienne Randolph, one of the researchers involved in the study, told Harvard. “But we found that antibodies children produced during prior infections don’t neutralize omicron. This means that unvaccinated children are still susceptible to omicron.”

  • Randolph also told Harvard that vaccination offers children better protection against COVID-19 than natural antibodies from infection.
  • Arunima Agarwal, a pediatrician based out of New York, says that previous infection may provide some immunity, but the immunity does not last forever and differs from child to child, according to VeryWell Health.
  • “Agarwal said even if a child develops antibodies from a natural infection, it typically only lasts around four to six months. However the length of immunity is different for every child,” VeryWell Health stated.