Scientist misleads on efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines for children

A child receives a dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine during a school vaccination launch event in Los Angeles, California on November 5, 2021. Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images.

Currently, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the only one allowed in the United States for children; no COVID-19 vaccine is currently authorized for children 4 years of age or younger.

We don’t know the exact source of Malone’s concerns about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, as he didn’t answer our question.

His claim that “between 1 in 2,000 and 1 in 3,000 children who receive these vaccines will be hospitalized in the short term with harm from the vaccine” may have been based on data on vaccine safety in older children. from 5 to 11 years old who has been published in the CDC’s MMWR on December 31.

The authors of the article examined data from 42,504 children enrolled in v-surea smartphone-based safety monitoring system, and were vaccinated in 2021, between November 3 and December 19. The authors found that 14, or 0.02%, of the children would have needed care in a hospital following a COVID-19 vaccination.

But, as the newspaper says, “it could not be determined whether the hospitalization was the result of the vaccination.”

“Information regarding the reason for hospitalization” was only available for five of the children “and included appendicitis (two), vomiting and dehydration (one), respiratory infection (one)”, and one case of infection known as retropharyngeal cellulitis, says the paper. The authors also later discovered that one of the hospitalizations was reported in error, after parents or guardians of all hospitalized children were contacted.

Further, in its limitations section, the document also noted that enrollment in v-safe is voluntary and that the “data reported may not be representative of the vaccinated population.”

As mentioned, Malone also speculated that COVID-19 vaccines could cause a host of other health issues for children.

“These genetic vaccines can harm your children,” he said. “They can damage their brain, their heart, their immune system and their ability to have children in the future. Much of this damage cannot be repaired.

To be clear, none of the COVID-19 vaccines are capable of altering someone’s DNA, as Malone’s use of the phrase “genetic vaccines” might lead some to believe. The CDC has explained on his website that neither mRNA vaccines nor viral vector vaccineslike the one made by Johnson & Johnson, “modify or interact with your DNA in any way”.

Experts also said infertility has not been shown to be a side effect of vaccination.

“There is no evidence that the vaccine can cause loss of fertility,” the American Academy of Pediatrics says on its FAQs on vaccination against COVID-19. “Although fertility has not been specifically studied in clinical trials of the vaccine, no loss of fertility has been reported among trial participants or among the millions of people who have received the vaccines since their authorization, and no sign of infertility has not appeared in animal studies.Similarly, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects puberty.

Regarding possible brain damage, vaccination against COVID-19 may actually offer some protection against brain inflammation caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection.

A CDC study first published in the MMWR on January 7 estimated that, for ages 12 to 18, two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were 91% effective against multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a condition that the CDC says can cause inflammation of the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Although the CDC says the exact cause of MIS-C is unknown, the condition has been seen in children with COVID-19.

In the study, which looked at cases from July to December 2021, when delta was predominant, 95% of patients hospitalized with MIS-C were unvaccinated. The authors stated that the results, in addition to a previous analysis estimating 93% vaccine efficacy against COVID-19-related hospitalizations, “contribute to the growing body of evidence that vaccination is likely effective in preventing serious COVID-19-related complications in children, including MIS- VS”.

It is true that some children may experience a condition known as myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, after vaccination. However, research suggests cases are rare and patients recover quickly after treatment – although the The CDC is investigating the long term effects.

A published study in the review Traffic early December reported 140 episodes of confirmed or suspected myocarditis in 139 adolescents and young adults aged 12 to 20 years. The authors found that over 90% of patients were male, the median age of patients was 15.8 years and the most common symptom, chest pain, was experienced by over 99% of patients. In addition, nearly 19% of patients were admitted to intensive care; the median length of hospitalization was two days. No deaths have been reported.

The authors stated that “most cases of myocarditis suspected due to COVID-19 vaccine” in this age group “have a mild clinical course with rapid resolution of symptoms.”

“We think it’s very important to get children vaccinated against COVID-19,” one of the study’s lead authors, Dr. Jane Newburgerpediatric cardiology specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, said in a video on research. “That’s because myocarditis due to vaccination and other vaccine-related complications are really rare, and much rarer than the more serious types of complications that can occur after infection with COVID-19 itself. “

For children under 12, the CDC December 31 study on Vaccine Safety said “myocarditis in children 5 to 11 years of age appears to be rare” because there have been only 11 verified reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, after administration of about 8 million doses of vaccine. Additionally, “in an active vaccine safety surveillance system, no record-confirmed reports of myocarditis were observed for 1-21 days or 1-42 days after 333,000 doses of vaccine were administered to children of the same age,” the newspaper said.

No vaccine, including those for COVID-19, is “completely safe” or poses at least some risk, as Malone put it. But the CDC and other organizations have determined that, for adults and children, the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccination outweigh any known or potential risks.

Editor’s note: SciCheck COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control on our editorial decisions, and the opinions expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while reducing the impact of misinformation.


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Sara H. Byrd