Controversial risk:benefit ratio of COVID-19 vaccines to kids
At the April 2021 meetings, Boulder County Public Health led the School Board to believe that everyone is at grave risk from COVID-19, kids and adults alike. Yet CDC data show that COVID-19 illness is generally mild among children and that the risk of death from COVID-19 is 8700 times lower among 5-17 year-olds compared to those age 85+ (1). Among people younger than 70 years, infection fatality rates in a global survey ranged from 0.00% to 0.31% with crude and corrected medians of 0.05% and an estimated fatality rate for children of 0.003% (2,3). Even among the relatively small number of children ostensibly hospitalized for COVID-19, recent science has concluded that reported hospitalization rates likely substantially overestimate the true disease burden (4). Of 117 hospitalizations of children for COVID-19 in that study, 46 (39.3%) were asymptomatic, and fifty-three (45%) admissions were categorized as unlikely to be caused by SARS-CoV-2.
Conversely, BCPH portrayed COVID-19 vaccines as perfectly safe to kids, but a recent study suggested that boys are up to 6.1 times more likely to be hospitalized for myocarditis and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle that can lead to cardiac arrhythmia and death) following mRNA vaccination than for COVID-19 infection itself (5). In Ontario alone, 106 youth have been hospitalized for vaccine-related heart problems through August 7, 2021(6). A recent presentation at the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting showed that myocarditis rates among boys and young men were as high as 100-200 times greater than expected background rates following the second dose of the COVID mRNA vaccine (7). Incredibly, health officials have tried to dismiss heart inflammation among children as “mild” (8), but inflamed heart tissue does not regenerate and results in lifelong scarring.
There are currently 19,827 total reports as of September 17, 2021 to the Vaccine Adverse Events Report System (VAERS) for 12 to 17 year-olds, including 19 deaths (9). There are 488 reports in this age group of pericarditis and myocarditis. Heart inflammation is far from the only risk to young people from the vaccines, with other side effects reported to VAERS including suicide, blood clotting, anaphylaxis, menstrual irregularities (with unknown long-term effects on fertility), Guillain Barré Syndrome and Bell’s palsy (9). Is it ethical to ask young people to risk this kind of harm, even if relatively unlikely, to protect against a virus for which they have a 99.997% survival rate (3)?
The recent Pfizer vaccine clinical trials among 12-15 year-olds provide additional worrisome data (10). Out of 1131 kids in the vaccine group, although none tested positive for COVID, 4 developed “serious” mental health disorders, including suicide ideation and depression (compared to 0 in the placebo group). In addition, two thirds of the vaccine group experienced headache and fatigue and 40% experienced chills. In contrast, less than one quarter of the placebo group had headache and fatigue and only ~5% experienced chills. While 16 out of 1129 (only 1.4%) of kids in the placebo group tested positive for COVID, all cases were mild. Weighing the significant harms against the small reward raises serious questions about the ethics of giving children COVID-19 vaccines. Nor can one justify vaccinating children for a perceived benefit to the elderly, especially in view of the recent admission that the vaccines do not stop infection and transmission (11,12,13). Even if such a benefit were real, for any medical intervention given to healthy children just beginning their lives, ethically, the benefit to them must be much greater than the risk. Even more troubling is the recent revelation that Pfizer buried information about a 12 year-old who was severely disabled during the vaccine trial, by dismissing her case as mere "functional abdominal pain.