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Weighing risks

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WORLD Radio - Weighing risks

Parents debate the pros and cons of getting children vaccinated


Emmanuelle Massin, 9, keeps her eyes on a light-up toy as she receives a COVID-19 vaccination at Englewood Health in Englewood, N.J., Monday, Nov. 8, 2021 Seth Wenig/Associated Press Photo

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 9th of November, 2021.

You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are! Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

First up on The World and Everything in It: vaccines.

Last week, the FDA gave emergency authorization to the first COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as age 5. The CDC recommends it, but not all parents are convinced.

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, one-third of those responding said they weren’t sure about vaccinating their elementary-aged children. Another third said they wouldn’t unless required.

REICHARD: Among parents’ biggest concerns: what long-term effects the vaccine might have on growing children. WORLD’s Caleb Bailey reports.

CALEB BAILEY, REPORTER: Rebecca Hawkins lives in McKinney, Texas, with her husband and two children. The children are 3 and 5. The oldest is now eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

HAWKINS: So when the vaccines first came out for adults, my husband had signed us both up, and we went ahead and got those, it seemed to be something that was well researched, well tested.

But Hawkins worries the trial for young children wasn’t quite as comprehensive. She isn’t sure what risks the vaccine might pose. On the other hand, she knows the risk of COVID isn’t that high. She doesn’t see it as much of a threat as other diseases vaccines protect against, like Polio or Hepatitis B.

HAWKINS: So why would I take on an unknown risk? When there's not much of a risk to start with?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 3,000 children and adolescents have been hospitalized with COVID-19 between March 2020 and June 2021.

And so far, only 94 children ages 5-11 have died from the virus.

Still, doctors are urging parents to get their kids vaccinated. And they insist it’s safe.

Dr. Sally Goza is a general pediatrician in Fayetteville, Georgia and the past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She points to the vaccine’s safety in the adult population.

GOZA: And so we have a much lower dose, it's 10 micrograms versus 30 for the adults. The safety studies look very good. The data is there to show that this vaccine is safe and effective for children.

Dr. Goza says that so far, with adults and teens, any serious side effects manifested themselves within the first two months after vaccination. So parents shouldn’t be worried about long term effects in children.

Though the death toll for children with COVID is relatively low, Dr. Goza says parents should still take the threat seriously.

GOZA: The eighth leading cause of death in children is COVID. And so, you know, that’s our thing is that we have a safe and effective vaccine that can prevent this disease.

But not all doctors agree, especially when it comes to side effects.

Dr. Kirk Milhoan specializes in pediatric cardiology and has filled pediatric positions for decades around the world, including as chief of  Pediatric Cardiology at the Children’s Hospital in San Antonio.

He’s worried about one side effect in particular.

MILHOAN: There’s an issue of myocarditis in kids who get the vaccine, especially after the second dose.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart that enlarges and weakens it. That can lead to scar tissue and makes the heart work harder to circulate blood. Dr. Milhoan says that could have monumental consequences for a prepubescent child whose body is still growing and developing.

Many of the most comprehensive studies related to COVID come out of Israel because it has one of the highest vaccination rates and a comprehensive health tracking system. The Israeli Ministry of Health found that one in 3,000 young men aged 16-24 developed myocarditis following vaccination. That’s a much higher rate than among adults, leading some to correlate age with reaction.

In part because of those concerns, an article in the British medical journal The Lancet suggested natural immunity is preferable for children. And Dr. Milhoan says lots of U.S. children have already had COVID.

MILHOAN: And the CDC says that 40 percent of children probably have natural immunity.

Dr. Milhoan isn’t the only physician to speculate on the effectiveness of natural immunity for children. He points to recommendations from Dr. Martin Kulldorf, the former head epidemiologist for Women and Children’s hospital in Boston.

MILHOAN: And what he said regarding these things is that I do not think children should be vaccinated for COVID. I am a huge fan of vaccinating children for measles, for mumps, for polio, for rotavirus and many other diseases. That's critical, but COVID is not a huge threat to children.

Dr. Milhoan says both the vaccine and natural immunity carry risk. Parents must decide for themselves what level of risk they’re willing to tolerate.

MILHOAN: I'm a pro Vax pediatrician, right? I'm not an anti Vaxxer. No, no way. Right? I vaccinated hundreds, if not 1000s of kids. I'm not afraid of science. I'm not afraid of data. As a physician, what I want to do is I don't want to hold back a medicine that will help somebody. And at the same time, I don't want to give a medicine that will potentially hurt somebody.

The push for vaccination is backed in part by a desire for herd immunity. Health officials say vaccinating children is one way to help protect their grandparents, or immunocompromised neighbors.

Rebecca Hawkins says that makes sense. And she believes Christians must consider how best to love others. But she’s also weighing her primary responsibility to protect and love her children.

HAWKINS: So we just have to make the best decisions with the information that we have.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Caleb Bailey.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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DMJohnson

Thank you for a refreshingly balanced article. We can't find articles like this in the mainstream media.

SJS

Excellent article. More balanced than most I see! Decisions on health care issues are challenging and perplexing as any we make. This is probably even more so when made for someone else. Here are some items to consider in regard to COVID 19 vaccine for ages 5 to less than 12.

1. The risk of hospitalization and death is incredibly low in this age group. As is the incidence of COVID 19.
2. Does this tiny risk clearly justify immunizing millions of children (estimated 28 million in USA) in this age group with the meager data on hand?
3. There were no deaths, hospitalizations, serious Covid or MIS-C in either group in the clinical trial. Is this enrollment bias? Or simply because the incidence is so low in this age group to begin with?
4. The political motivations behind medical societies should always be considered. Corporate sponsorship can certainly sway a group. And it can also highlight their bias. While not totally disqualifying their perspective, should nuance our acceptance of their positions. Bias can, and often does, impact the interpretation and application of all data. Why not here as well in this politically charged area? For example two that present4ed in favor of the COVID Vaccine in this age group are AAP and NAPNAP. We know that the AAP (previously reported in WNG) ignores and seek to suppress data regarding transgender therapies that clearly goes against their agenda. While NAPNAP, though a relatively small group with good intentions and good programs has as part of their strategy for promoting vaccines (a laudable goal) is to silence all dissent from the "antivaxxers". They have programs (Kids+ Anti-Anti-Vaxx Toolkit) in place that explicitly list this as part of their strategy. Additionally NAPNAP joined an AMICUS brief to fight legislation that would restrict a balanced approach to transgender therapy. If they embrace children affirming self-identification as a gender that is not their birth or biologic gender and don't allow a balanced approach we see their nuanced intrinsic political bias.
5. We have no long-term data for this small trial
a. 2,250 subjects initially followed for 2 months + an additional 2,250 followed for 2.4 weeks (when the cutoff for submission was made)
i. By comparison with another controversial vaccine the clinical trials for Gardasil and its two relatives totaled 74,000 participants (29k, 30k and 15k)
b. There were no deaths, hospitalizations, or incidents of MIS-C in either the treatment arm not the placebo arm. So we know the vaccine reduces the incidence of those who get COVID. But at what long term cost?
c. We really do not know what the long-term risks are for the vaccine in anyone. Let alone this age group.
d. History is replete of therapies, even in bigger trials, that in time turn out to have unknown or unexpected adverse effects.
6. There have been documented serious questions and concerns about breeches of protocol and shoddy research practices for data gathering such as at Ventavia
BMJ link regarding Ventavia.

[email protected]

I don't understand...94 deaths nationwide of covid virus and pediatrician says Covid is 8th leading cause of death for children. I see Caleb Bailey's citation for 94 deaths, but where is citation for Dr. Goza's remark?
"And so far, only 94 children ages 5-11 have died from the virus."
"Dr. Sally Goza is a general pediatrician in Fayetteville, Georgia and the past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics... GOZA: The eighth leading cause of death in children is COVID. And so, you know, that’s our thing is that we have a safe and effective vaccine that can prevent this disease."

Kimberly[email protected]

I was thinking the same thing. It seems beyond belief that COVID could be the 8th leading cause of death in children when only 94 children ages 5-11 have died of it. That seems like a glaring inconsistency the writer could clarify or at least cite the source so readers could check it out and understand it.

[email protected]Kimberly

Well, here it is. The chart Dr. Goza must be referencing: https://i.redd.it/lpgjfeaxjqm71.jpg, published by NYT from CDC data. A search did not find the NYT link. Only this reddit link.

Figs

Thank you, Caleb Bailey! It was time to talk about this. As a mother of an immunocompromised child, I will say please do NOT get your child vaccinated for my child's sake! Really! My child had Covid and weathered it just fine with zero issues. We are thankful for his natural immunity (which incidentally is showing to be exceedingly more durable than the vaccine!) The risks of this experimental gene therapy is TOO great to subject a child to.

RCRE8109Figs

What specific PROOF do you have that your child’s natural immunity,” … is showing to be exceedingly more durable than the vaccine!)“. What medical data do you have that that shows this to be true?
Since the FDA granted full approval, no one can say it is experimental and it is not gene therapy.
Gene Therapy is where they transplant normal genes into cells in place of missing or defective ones in order to correct genetic disorders. That is not happening with the vaccines.

Most of the Covid-19 vaccines work like this. “mRNA vaccines work by introducing a piece of mRNA that corresponds to a viral protein, usually a small piece of a protein found on the virus’s outer membrane. (Individuals who get an mRNA vaccine are not exposed to the virus, nor can they become infected by the vaccine.) Using this mRNA blueprint, cells produce the viral protein. As part of a normal immune response, the immune system recognizes that the protein is foreign and produces specialized proteins called antibodies. Antibodies help protect the body against infection by recognizing individual viruses or other pathogens, attaching to them, and marking the pathogens for destruction. Once produced, antibodies remain in the body, even after the body has rid itself of the pathogen, so that the immune system can quickly respond if exposed again. If a person is exposed to a virus after receiving mRNA vaccination for it, antibodies can quickly recognize it, attach to it, and mark it for destruction before it can cause serious illness.”

https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/therapy/mrnavaccines/

FigsRCRE8109

RCRE8109, what specific medical "PROOF" do I have that my child has durable natural immunity? The fact that he had Covid! And studies are showing even mild cases produce durable immunity. I have a friend who still has antibodies 11 months post-Covid whereas several vaccinated friends are still coming down with Covid and needing boosters. There ya go! :)

https://medicine.wustl.edu/news/good-news-mild-covid-19-induces-lasting-antibody-protection/?fbclid=IwAR32fdbgf9yHTMszGuhcEQuym9Gv_9rGRVLxDqXZU5rFYAJxLqTlkBcOe28

FigsFigs

Here is an Israeli study that also shows the superiority of natural immunity. Also . . . you say that it is FDA approved so it cannot be called experimental. Nope. I stand by calling it experimental. it was approved under emergency use. Key words - meaning corners were cut! There have been zero long term studies, and no enough kids were tested. I love my kids too much to ever give them this vaccine.

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.08.24.21262415v1.full.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0YNeqiQdyk8NSs_AGgFduyJN-0UVakepq5TeZEzo1H7qsWy3eXMIztfkQ

Nanamiro

If baffles me. These vaccines are the least "well researched, well tested" vaccine ever to be pressed upon the American public. Yet people like Hawkins parrot these ideas. The research and testing on children is even less.
"Though the death toll for children with COVID is relatively low..." That is a bizarre understatement. The risk of death for children is statistically zero. Yes, that is "relatively" low.
"The push for vaccination is backed in part by a desire for herd immunity." Look anywhere in the world with a high vaccination rates (including US states). They are seeing cases surge. I have no hope in these injections bringing herd immunity.

My Two Cents

Other childhood immunizations (whether parents choose to get them or not) are to protect the child from those deadly diseases. This one seems to be to protect elderly grandparents. I am not a grandparent, but that reason is NOT a selling point for me. Don’t vaccinate your kid to protect me! Vaccinate them so they don’t get Covid. And like the one parent said, the risk of Covid in young children is minimal.