Rallying cries for requiring school-age children be vaccinated for COVID-19 have already started, beginning with the Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent, Austin Beutner. The leader of the country’s second-biggest school system stated on Monday when asked if children will be required to have the vaccination in order to return to school, he replied, “No different than students being vaccinated for measles and mumps or tested for tuberculosis before they come on campus. That’s the best way we know to keep all on the campus safe.”
Vaccines are one of the greatest success stories in public health. Without vaccines, I shudder to think of how infectious diseases would be running rampant throughout the world killing millions of people every year. But until we know more facts on the safety of the coronavirus vaccine, let’s pause until this data is gathered in regards to its safety and efficacy among children.
Vaccine safety concern for school-age children
As a father of school-age children, there’s nothing more than I want than to see them return to in-person classes as it used to be and still should be. Safety, of course, is an important factor in this consideration. Whether children should be required to take the vaccine at this time, is another matter.
We see that coronavirus infection rates are spiking throughout the United States. Schools have justified concerns of keeping staff and students healthy and well. But is requiring this vaccine the best way to get our children back into school? This is where I say, at this time, it’s too premature to definitively have a clear-cut answer.
So what is the truth? Currently, the Pfizer vaccine can be given to people age 16 and older, but the Moderna vaccine is for adults 18 and older. Both drug companies have already enrolled children as young as 12 in ongoing trials. But even if we want to require it right now, it will very likely be months before the vaccine is even widely available for children since both Pfizer and Moderna are only in the beginning phases of testing them in ongoing vaccination trials. Requiring children to take a vaccine, when we still don’t know a lot about its safety or efficacy, is premature.
Another truth is that even if the CDC recommends the coronavirus vaccine for children, of which the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices determines which vaccines are recommended for childhood immunizations, it’s up to each individual state to legislate a mandate of which vaccines are then required for attending school within that state.
Coronavirus in kids – how dangerous is it?
I have several reservations about requiring the COVID-19 vaccine to all school-age children at this time. While we do need to do everything we can to get our kids back into the classroom in-person, we also need to review what we know so far about how children have been affected by COVID-19.
Let’s look first at what seems to be two pressing questions: How harmful is COVID-19 in children, and are children main spreaders of the virus to their families, elderly grandparents and teachers?
What we know is that COVID-19’s impact on children has been rare and represents only a tiny fraction of severe illness and death when compared to adults. A joint report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, has provided multiple updates on child COVID-19 cases in the United States.
As of January 7, nearly 2.3 million children have tested positive for the virus since the onset of the pandemic. Since December 17, at least 172 children have died from the virus.
Statistically, children represent 12.5% of all cases in states reporting cases by age. About 1.8% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations and 0.07% of the deaths have been among children. About 1.3% of children with a known case of COVID-19 have been hospitalized and 0.01% has died from it.
Any death in a child from an infectious disease is always a tragedy. But, as you can see, the infection rate and infection fatality rate is far lower among children than it is in adults.
When you compare the seasonal flu in children to COVID-19, influenza has claimed more lives. In August 2020, the CDC reported that seasonal flu-death in children for the 2019-2020 season totaled 188. However, the CDC also that number is likely to be estimated closer to 600 deaths among children.
The other question of whether children are silent spreaders to others for the virus remains unclear. Children, who contract COVID-19, typically are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms and therefore, many may not be tested for every minor illness. This has been one reason why there is a push for children to be vaccinated for the virus if they are in fact, main vectors of COVID-19 spread but are symptomless if infected with it.
The importance of in-person learning for children
All of us have suffered during the pandemic, but our children’s education and psyche have been especially affected. Disruptions in education have impacted their academic progress. Children have suffered with upheaval in their daily lives and social isolation from friends. Many are anxious about getting sick.
Our children need normalcy. They need to be sitting in a classroom in-person among their peers. They want and deserve high quality education preparing and equipping them with the skills and knowledge they’ll need to compete in our competitive world. To deny children of this right unless they are vaccinated against COVID-19, at this time, is wrong.
Let’s do the right thing – get our kids back in school buildings, enhancing their learning the best. That’s what they deserve most right now. Then, in time, we can take a closer look at considering a requirement for the COVID-19 vaccine for kids once we have more conclusive information making sure the benefits outweigh any risks.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men's Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He's a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi's Guide to Men's Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi's websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911. Read Dr. David Samadi's Reports – More Here.
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