Group Asks CDC for Data on COVID-19 Vaccination Status of Children Diagnosed With RSV

Group Asks CDC for Data on COVID-19 Vaccination Status of Children Diagnosed With RSV
A general view of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., on Sept. 30, 2014. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)
Meiling Lee

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is being asked to provide data on how many children infected with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have received a COVID-19 vaccine prior to their diagnosis, according to Aaron Siri, a lawyer representing the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN).

“Our firm, on behalf of our client Informed Consent Action Network, sent the letter to the CDC asking for follow-up on this issue,” Siri wrote in an email to The Epoch Times, adding that FOIA requests have also been submitted.

“If the CDC chooses not to respond to the letter, they will at least be required pursuant to law to respond to the FOIA requests,” Siri said.

The letter (pdf) was sent to CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in regard to the out-of-season surge in RSV cases across the country.

RSV is a respiratory virus that usually causes cold-like symptoms in people of all ages. Doctors say that the virus is so common that many children will have been infected with it before they are two years old.

In most people, RSV is mild and will go away in a week or two, but for some—who are immunocompromised or have a lung or heart disease—the viral infection can be quite severe.

Prior to the appearance of COVID-19, RSV season usually occurred from November through April, according to a 2018 study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.
But in the winter of 2020, the typical surge in RSV-related hospitalizations among children was absent, instead occurring offseason in March 2021 and peaking in July. Normally, March and April are when RSV activity would decrease. Other countries also saw a surge in RSV during their summer season.
 A graph of RSV cases occurring in the United States. (CDC/Screenshot by The Epoch Times)
A graph of RSV cases occurring in the United States. (CDC/Screenshot by The Epoch Times)
Government health authorities claim that the increase in RSV is a result of restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, causing “far fewer infections in younger people,” and that many children were not able to develop immunity, making them more susceptible.
This phenomenon is described as “immunity gap—a group of susceptible individuals who avoided infection and therefore lack pathogen-specific immunity to protect against future infection” as a result of less exposure to viruses normally seen, according to authors of a Lancet article published on July 12, 2022.

Changes in societal behavioral and non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), including lockdowns and mask-wearing, during COVID-19 changed the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the “predictable seasonal circulation patterns of many endemic viral illnesses in children,” the authors wrote.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.

Researchers of a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases found that NPIs put in place in the winter of 2020 to 2021 to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom may have lowered children's immunity to RSV and put them at a higher risk of infection later.
“The extraordinary absence of RSV during winter 2020–21 probably resulted in a cohort of young children without natural immunity to RSV, thereby raising the potential for increased RSV incidence, out-of-season activity, and health-service pressures when measures to restrict SARS-CoV-2 transmission were relaxed,” the authors wrote.

Other Possible Explanations

There is ongoing debate on the possible explanations for the unusual RSV wave in the spring to summer of 2021 and 2022, and the current early fall surge.
Some experts allege that immunity gap, also known as immunity debt, doesn't exist or explain the cause of the surge, although the “term has been described in the literature for over 50 years.” Instead, they claim that the high RSV hospitalizations is due to SARS-CoV-2 infection having damaged children's immune systems.

A third possible reason for the RSV wave is that COVID-19 injections may increase the risk of infection from other diseases and why several experts, including ICAN, suggest that the vaccine status of children diagnosed with RSV be tracked.

“FDA Moderna report in children suggested that the vaccinated group had higher incidence of RSV infection and pneumonia,” Dr. Michael Verbora, chief medical officer at Aleafia Health, posted Nov. 8 on Twitter. “Given the surge in RSV it's vital to track COVID vax status in children presenting with infections to see if there's a signal warranting investigation.”
ICAN said in a press release on Nov. 7 that “despite the noted importance of surveilling RSV post-authorization, no one at the CDC or FDA seems to be drawing a connection between the increase in RSV and the COVID-19 vaccines being administered to children.”

COVID-19 mRNA Injections and RSV

 Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine labels are seen in a file photo. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)
Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine labels are seen in a file photo. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Besides the NPIs and societal behavioral changes that occurred during the pandemic, COVID-19 injections were administered to pregnant women and children ages 6 months to 17 years.

In the Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial (pdf), RSV was listed as one of the serious adverse events among participants aged 6 months to 23 months. There were five children with RSV bronchiolitis compared to three children with either bronchiolitis or RSV bronchiolitis in the placebo group. It's not known exactly how many of the three children experienced only RSV bronchiolitis.
Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine trial for young children showed that within 28 days following vaccination, children in the vaccine group experienced higher rates of RSV than those in the placebo group (pdf).

Events of RSV were reported by 0.8 percent of the participants who received the Moderna jab compared to 0.5 percent in the placebo for children 6 to 23 months old.

In children aged 2 to 5 years, 0.4 percent of vaccinated children reported RSV infection, whereas less than 0.1 percent in the placebo did.

In children aged 6 to 11, 0.3 percent of those vaccinated experienced RSV versus zero in the placebo group.

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), the panel that advises the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on vaccines, in June 2022 “stressed the importance of continued post-authorization safety surveillance, in particular for myocarditis/pericarditis and for certain respiratory infections (RSV and pneumonia) in the youngest age group, for which imbalances of uncertain clinical significance were observed in the clinical trial, and febrile seizures given the rates of fever observed in the youngest age group.”

Despite the higher rates of RSV in the vaccinated group, the panel went ahead and voted to recommend the vaccine, claiming that “overall, the frequency and clinical course for these events do not appear unusual given the age group of the study population and the season (fall-winter) during which the study took place, and the observed imbalance could be due to chance.”

“It is astounding that, despite the clinical trial data and the FDA advisory committee’s advice that this issue should be further studied, the CDC would respond to an increase in RSV by recommending additional COVID-19 vaccination in children,” Siri said. “It should be responding by conducting additional studies of the connection between COVID-19 vaccination and RSV in children.”

Symptoms and Treatment for RSV

Some of the symptoms of RSV include coughing, runny nose, fever, sneezing, and wheezing.
There is no specific treatment or a vaccine for RSV, but that may change as Pfizer has announced that it plans to submit a Biologics License Application for its RSV vaccine to the FDA next month. The jab is administered to pregnant women.

The CDC says that children at high risk of severe disease can receive a monoclonal antibody injection, palivizumab, prior to RSV season as prophylaxis. People with RSV are recommended to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fever and relieve pain, and to keep hydrated. Parents should discuss with their doctor before giving their child an over-the-counter cold medicine.

Each year in the United States, in children younger than 5 years old, RSV cases account for 58,000 to 80,000 hospitalizations, 2.1 million outpatient visits, and 100 to 300 deaths, according to the CDC. It is also the most common cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the tiny airways of the lung, among children under the age of 1 year.

The CDC, the FDA, Pfizer, and Moderna did not respond to The Epoch Times' request for comment.

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