Oh Great, Media Now Both Sides-Ing Whether To Vaccinate Kids Against Deadly Virus

Culture Wars

Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11. This is great news that should make schools and upcoming holiday gatherings safer. However, Melissa Healy at the Los Angeles Times wondered, in print and everything, why we should bother vaccinating kids at all. She correctly pointed out that it's not December 2020 or August 2021, but then her argument fell apart.

[I]t's late October 2021, and the virus appears to be in retreat. New infections and deaths have both plunged more than 45% since a surge in September. And after multiple waves of infections, more than 1 in 4 U.S. residents have likely battled the coronavirus and gained some immunity as a result.

Say it with us one more time: The COVID-19 vaccine provides greater protection than past infection. The Los Angeles Times reported this fact the same day it published Healy's article. COVID-19 has also developed a pattern of surging, receding, and then returning with a vengeance when Americans let down their guard. Vaccination rates are steadily improving, but children under 12 are still potential spreaders. It's why we vaccinate them for any number of contagious diseases, including polio, measles, and chicken pox.

We're almost two years into this nightmare and Healy isn't sure there's sufficient gain from vaccinating 28 million children who attend school and interact with other people to “offset the theoretical possibility of heart risks — a downside that's not yet been measured." The FDA has determined that the Pfizer vaccine is overall safe for children, while COVID-19 is not. Children have died from COVID-19.


The New York Times had an article this weekend profiling parents who, while personally vaccinated, are reluctant to consent to vaccination for their own children. This would seem to make them lousy parents, but we're not judging.

Even many parents who are themselves vaccinated and approved the shot for their teenagers are churning over whether to give consent for their younger children, questioning if the risk of the unknowns of a brand-new vaccine is worth it when most coronavirus cases in youngsters are mild.

The FDA just approved this! What's with these people? Yes, the vaccine is new but it's not like a first-generation iPhone. We didn't immediately fuck with those, either. We also don't know for sure that "most coronavirus cases in youngsters are mild" and the Times shouldn't present that as an unquestionable fact. Pediatric cases increased during the Delta surge. Long COVID-19 is also a concern.

Clinical trials demonstrated that Pfizer's lower-dose shots for kids younger than 12 are safe and produce a strong immune response to COVID-19, which is a serious disease. The most common side effects — fatigue, fever, and headache — are similar to those from a flu shot.

Infectious disease experts say that with approaching holiday travel and family gatherings, widespread vaccination of younger children could be a game-changer: It could help keep classes in person, reduce the likelihood of quarantines and lessen the risk of transmission to older, vulnerable adults — as well as protect the children from what has become the eighth biggest killer in their age group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is a classic “both sides" feature. The infectious disease experts have a more valid point than nervous parents. That should serve as the primary hook, but instead the focus is on the people who do their own research. Parental concerns about childhood vaccination reportedly increased significantly from June to September, and recent polls reveal that 42 percent of parents are unlikely to have their newly eligible children vaccinated. That's why you mandate the hell out of it.

The Times interviewed some parents who feared their vaccinated kids developing myocarditis, a weakening of the heart muscle. Studies have shown this side effect is extremely rare and objectively less of a risk than dying from COVID-19.

The Washington Post also interviewed parents who'd vaccinated themselves, but are holdouts for protecting their kids. There's the annoying argument that vaccinating kids isn't as necessary as it was because COVID-19 cases are declining. It's as if no one has noticed that COVID-19 acts like Michael Myers from Halloween. These parents claim they "have a hard time finding reliable information to make an informed decision," and all the smart people who work for the FDA just sort of sigh.

Get your kids vaccinated, for God's sake, so we can all put this behind us.

[LA Times / New York Times / Washington Post]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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