The drumbeat to vaccinate all children against COVID-19 is getting louder. The largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association (NEA), is debating whether to insist on full vaccination and testing before returning to in-person learning. An item in the NEA’s agenda for the 2021annual meeting read:
“The NEA will call for mandatory safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations and testing for all students and staff before returning to face-to-face instruction in the fall, subject to medical exceptions in accordance with existing law.”
Now, a caucus within the most prominent teachers’ union in New York City is contemplating legal action to allow employees to opt-out of returning to in-person learning this fall. A form titled “We Must Not Return Until It Is Safe” asks members to state whether they think it is unsafe for students and teachers to return in September. There is no option to indicate a member thinks it is safe, and the United Federation of Teachers does not want to hear from those members.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also issued guidance that recommends children should return to in-person learning due to the catastrophic effects on mental health and learning that prolonged closure is having on kids. However, it also recommends masks for all children over the age of two in daycare and educational settings. The pro-mask article they mentioned came from the American Federation of Teachers. Interestingly, the only study they cited related to virus transmission was a meta-analysis noting that asymptomatic spread is not a driver, and children are almost never the index case in a household.
The AAP predicates its guidance on the fact that the FDA has not approved vaccines for children under 12. There is an active lawsuit in Federal District Court in Alabama to prevent the FDA from issuing an EUA for pediatric vaccination. It asserts, according to HHS data, the infection fatality rate for people under the age of 65 is 0.3%, approximating a severe flu season, and that the health emergency declaration that allows the FDA to issue an EUA is not appropriate.
The drive to mask and vaccinate children becomes even more absurd when you discover how many children under 18 have died of COVID-19. According to Dr. Marty Makary at Johns Hopkins, that answer is zero. From his recent op-ed:
A tremendous number of government and private policies affecting kids are based on one number: 335. That is how many children under 18 have died with a Covid diagnosis code in their record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet the CDC, which has 21,000 employees, hasn’t researched each death to find out whether Covid caused it or if it involved a pre-existing medical condition.
Without these data, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices decided in May that the benefits of two-dose vaccination outweigh the risks for all kids 12 to 15. I’ve written hundreds of peer-reviewed medical studies, and I can think of no journal editor who would accept the claim that 335 deaths resulted from a virus without data to indicate if the virus was incidental or causal, and without an analysis of relevant risk factors such as obesity.
My research team at Johns Hopkins worked with the nonprofit FAIR Health to analyze approximately 48,000 children under 18 diagnosed with Covid in health-insurance data from April to August 2020. Our report found a mortality rate of zero among children without a pre-existing medical condition such as leukemia.
The CDC is careful to delineate between hospitalizations and deaths “with” and “of” COVID-19 in fully vaccinated individuals. To date, the agency has analyzed over 5,000 hospitalizations and 1,063 deaths. It has not done the same for a fraction of the reported total deaths due to COVID-19 or pediatric deaths. Dr. Makary’s team did for the latter and found none in the absence of severe comorbidities.
In California, hospitals and counties revised their rates of hospitalization of children “for” COVID-19 and total deaths down. Early in the pandemic, one hospital system in New Jersey found 89% of those who died with COVID-19 listed as the cause of death had a Do Not Resuscitate Order in place before contracting COVID-19. The health bureaucracy has never provided Americans with the kind of data they need to do an appropriate risk assessment for themselves and their family. However, every once in a while, the CDC has a rare moment of honesty. Makary noted:
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky claimed that vaccinating a million adolescent kids would prevent 200 hospitalizations and one death over four months. But the agency’s Covid adolescent hospitalization report, like its death count, doesn’t distinguish on the website whether a child is hospitalized for Covid or with Covid. The subsequent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of that analysis revealed that 45.7% “were hospitalized for reasons that might not have been primarily related” to Covid-19.
The CDC estimate is likely underrepresenting the problem. Healthcare workers hunting COVID-19 in Australia missed diagnosing young children with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which has COVID-19-like symptoms. RSV is the most common illness requiring hospitalization for children under five. In Michigan’s post-reopening wave, they reported an uptick in children hospitalized with COVID-19 during peak RSV season. It was the only state to document this phenomenon.
Journalist Alex Berenson also notes that looking at COVID-19 vaccine side effects in isolation does not represent an accurate picture:
Also keep in mind that heart inflammation is only ONE potential problem the vaccines may cause. The CDC and journalists generally like to compare each individual vaccine side effect to ALL the risks of Covid, a slight-of-hand [sic] that has the effect of making the vaccines seem safer.
In fact, the CDC’s own data shows that for every 100,000 vaccines given to young people, more than 25,000 will have temporary side effects that prevent them from “normal activities,” 700 will require medical care and 200 will be hospitalized.
There is not sufficient, specific data to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for children under 18 years old. At the same time, it may be beneficial to children with severe illnesses, such as leukemia or morbid obesity. However, according to Makary, it is not remotely clear that vaccination is the best option for all children. It is even less clear that an unvaccinated child poses any significant risk to a vaccinated adult.
The worst thing our public health experts have done during the COVID-19 pandemic may be making us look at our fellow human beings, including our children, as mortal threats. This rhetoric needs to stop immediately, especially with our children and how we should handle their health during COVID-19.