This week Pfizer submitted initial data from the late-stage trial of their COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 5 to 12 to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, raising expectations the shot will be available to our children as soon as Halloween.
Undoubtedly, there will be a push from the Biden administration to vaccinate our kids (mandate it even) – but before you race out to comply, let’s look at the ‘science’ available to us currently.
According to Pfizer’s own data, the trial conducted on children wasn’t designed to draw meaningful conclusions on the shot’s ability to prevent COVID-19 contraction or hospitalization. You read that correctly. This is because so few kids actually become severely ill from the virus. Instead, the trial was framed around measuring the children’s immune response.
We repeat: The trial does not prove the shot will prevent your child from getting COVID-19 in the first place or from being hospitalized with it.
Again, this is because COVID-19 isn’t a threat to children. Recent data from Public Health England found that unvaccinated children had a decreased risk of hospitalization when compared with fully vaccinated 40 to 49-year-olds. COVID-19 has a lower annual mortality risk to children than motor vehicle accidents, drowning, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Among those aged 5 to 14 years, COVID-19 is less of a threat than suicide.
What is the ‘emergency’ for an emergency-use approval of this vaccine?
Many argue children can still transmit the virus even though their symptoms are mild. However, all adults now have access to a highly effective vaccine that prevents COVID-19 hospitalization and death. Shouldn’t our aim as a society be to minimize the overall harm to our children? Pfizer’s data concludes the side-effects of the shot aren’t too bad for kids in the short term, but they have absolutely no data on the long-term.
The pandemic has already had a profound impact on your youth. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found of 432,302 children aged 2 to19 years, the monthly rate of increase in body mass index (BMI) nearly doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with a pre-pandemic period. This appeared to impact most severely the 3 to11-year age group. Our kids are gaining weight - which, of course, is among the leading co-morbidities of COVID-19.
Moreover, from April to October 2020, emergency room visits for mental-health-related issues for children aged 5 to11 and 12 to17 years increased 24% and 31%, respectively. Our children’s mental health is suffering.
Classroom shutdowns last year also had a significant impact on K-12 learning, leaving students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading, according to a study by McKinsey & Co. The disparity was even wider among minority and low-income students. McKinsey’s analysis also suggests today’s students may earn as much as $61,000 less over their lifetime due to the pandemic’s impact on their schooling.
Our goal as a society should be to minimize the harm of the COVID-19 pandemic on our children. So far, we’ve failed. Our “abundance of caution” approach has created an abundance of harm. The upcoming vaccination debate will be our next test.