In a sane era, no ethics review panel would allow doctors to bribe young children into treatment with unknown dangers and tiny benefits. But medical ethics are just another victim of the Covid pandemic, as Bill de Blasio happily demonstrated at a recent press conference. The Mayor of New York announced that children five and older would be paid $ 100 for vaccination against Covid – and then reached out directly to those too young to estimate the city’s bribe.
“A lot of sweets are bought there,” explained the mayor.
Scientific and medical norms have been violated throughout the pandemic, but the schoolchildren vaccination campaign marks a new low. It is being led by the Centers for Disease Control with the help of politicians, journalists and others Sesame Street‘s Big Bird (who appeared on a CNN special about proselytizing children). Ninety-five percent of people in low-income countries have not yet received a dose, but officials allegedly devoted to public health want the world’s still limited supply by vaccinating more than 50 million young Americans with minimal risk from the disease use up. While it may benefit some children with underlying diseases, no compelling reason can be put forward to require universal vaccination in schools, which is under consideration in some states and has already been enacted by the California governor.
Based on seroprevalence surveys, it appears that almost half of American school children have already had Covid. (The estimate was around 40 percent in June and has undoubtedly increased during the spread of the Delta variant.) Children who have had measles or chickenpox do not need to be vaccinated against these diseases. Why should tens of millions of children with natural immunity to Covid be pressured to get a vaccine with known side effects? Federal officials have offered various answers, none of which are convincing. The CDC continues to insist that infection has not been shown to confer strong immunity, and even released a study to show that vaccinations provide better immunity. But as Martin Kulldorff of Harvard Medical School pointed out, this study was grossly flawed and refuted by more rigorous research showing that natural immunity is much stronger and lasts longer than vaccine immunity.
For children without immunity, a vaccine would reduce the risk of hospitalization or death – but that risk is already tiny for most children, especially younger children. (As is the risk of severe “long covid,” and it is questionable whether vaccination would provide additional protection.) Among the 28 million Americans ages five to eleven, the CDC counted only 66 in the year that ended in October Covid deaths, less than the number who died from the flu in 2019. And the Covid number is certainly outnumbered, which includes children who happened to test positive but actually died from other causes. (Two-thirds of them had at least one other underlying condition.) In studies that analyzed the hospital records of children classified as Covid cases, researchers found that nearly half of the children had no symptoms of the disease and because of other problems were treated.
In its risk-benefit analysis of vaccines for young children, the Food and Drug Administration estimates that in most scenarios only one death per 1 million children vaccinated would be avoided. That’s probably overly optimistic as the calculation is based on past overestimates of Covid mortality (the deaths counted by the CDC) and does not take into account future mortality reductions due to improved treatments. But even assuming vaccination prevented that one Covid death out of a million, it would only take a small number of deaths from unforeseen side effects of vaccination to result in net loss of life.
Researchers have already identified several rare but worrying side effects, including blood clots and myocarditis, which have not been adequately studied. Nobody knows what else might come up. When the FDA’s advisory panel approved the infant vaccine based on a clinical trial, one of its members, Eric Rubin of the New England Journal of Medicine, admitted that the study was too small and too brief to identify rare and potentially serious side effects. “We’ll never know how safe the vaccine is if we don’t give it,” said Rubin. “That’s how it works.”
But this doesn’t have to be the case for otherwise healthy children. Many experts, including the UK Vaccine Advisory Committee, have advised against vaccination. “The benefit of this vaccine to children is so little that almost any risk of side effects makes vaccination inadvisable,” said Jay Bhattacharya, Stanford professor of medicine. “The vaccine may be good for some children with chronic illnesses, but that should be left to parents and pediatricians, and not forced upon everyone. Making this vaccine mandatory for all children will undermine trust in other children’s vaccines. “
It has been argued that even if children do not benefit from it themselves, vaccination increases herd immunity and slows the spread of the virus to adults. However, the risk of death for adults has already decreased, with 80 percent of older Americans receiving at least one dose of the vaccine, so vaccinating children would have limited benefits. And now that we’ve learned what happens a few months after vaccination – people become susceptible to breakthrough infections that can be passed on to others – it makes more sense to build herd immunity by giving lower-risk children the stronger, more permanent natural immunity gain .
Even if mass vaccination in childhood would significantly slow down the spread of the virus, it would still be unethical, according to an international research group in the British Medical Journal. “Should society consider vaccinating children and putting them at risk, not to benefit them but to protect adults?” They wrote. “We believe that adults have a responsibility to protect themselves.” If adults take the risk of not being vaccinated, they have no right to ask children to take risks for them.
The scariest rationale for vaccinating children is that it “would help schools safely return to personal learning, as well as extracurricular activities and sports,” the CDC says. The United States has been uniquely cruel to children throughout the pandemic, closing schools and masking students for long periods of time, despite ample evidence that these measures were unnecessary and harmful. Sweden has shown that keeping schools open during the pandemic – without masks, social distancing, smaller classes or strict quarantines – did little to put students, teachers or the community at risk. Other European countries have also opened schools without forcing young students to wear masks. Today, with most American adults vaccinated, there is less reason than ever to close schools. But instead of apologizing for their past child abuse, officials appease neurotic adults – and teachers’ unions – by threatening even more penalties for failing to vaccinate students.
The threat is a version of the mob’s old protection broker –You have a nice school here, what a shame if something happens to her– but at least the mob’s blackmailers weren’t targeting children. Gangsters contented themselves with cash payments, which would be preferable to today’s demands for mass vaccinations. The children would be better off if de Blasio and the other adult tyrants contented themselves with taking their candy money.
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