Mandating COVID-19 vaccines for children may not be a good idea at this time because of side effects linked to the shots, an epidemiologist says.
California on Oct. 1 announced that all students in the state will need a jab once the vaccines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for their age group. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine, the only one to receive approval, is approved for anybody 16 or older.
Around the same time, multiple school boards in California, including the Sacramento City Unified School District, went further and required jabs for all students aged 12 and up.
“I’m concerned about that,” said Dr. Tracy Høeg, an epidemiologist and public health expert whose son goes to school in the district.
Høeg led a study that examined reports submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System and found boys between 12 and 15 with no serious health conditions were up to six times more likely to land in a hospital after getting a second Pfizer’s shot than after getting COVID-19.
That’s because heart inflammation, or myocarditis or pericarditis, occurs at a higher-than-expected rate post-vaccination in youth, especially young males.
“I’m afraid that parents who have questions about the safety—maybe they are concerned, they have a son who might be at risk for myocarditis—will then really not have a say in whether or not the child gets a second dose,” Høeg said.
“This is particularly an issue for children who have already been infected, because from what we know, they likely have very strong immunity already to COVID-19. And so I’m concerned about the nuance and the discussion being lost, and people feeling like they’re coerced into vaccinating their child in order for them to have a normal life and stay in school,” she added.
Høeg was speaking on NTD’s “Wide Angle.”
California officials said the mandates would help curb an expected surge in COVID-19 cases in the winter and beyond, and portrayed it as a simple matter of adding another vaccine to the list of shots children already must get to attend school.
The Sacramento district, for instance, quoted (pdf) the California Department of Public Health, which says on its website: “Vaccination may stop the spread of coronavirus variants. They can also shrink the pool of people vulnerable to COVID-19. By getting children 12 and up vaccinated, families can be safer as we get back to doing the things we love.”
Coronavirus is another name for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s shot for 5- to 11-year-olds on Friday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to recommend the jab to all kids in that group after its advisory panel meets on the matter this week.
Høeg said that the COVID-19 vaccines do work in preventing severe disease and hospitalization and the authorization is good news in terms of giving access to high-risk children, but cautioned against mandating the shots in children because long-term safety data is not yet available.
“We’ve had had requirements for vaccines before, obviously, where children are required to get them for school. But this is a little different, because it’s a very new vaccine. So we’re still learning about the safety, especially in that 5- to 11-year-old age group,” she said, noting that Pfizer’s study was too small to detect any potential risks of myocarditis associated with vaccination.