Kids and COVID

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On October 29, 2021, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine which is used for the prevention of COVID-19, to be administered to children from 5 to 11 years of age. Those who oppose the vaccine for anyone are predictably up in arms, again screaming about ‘rights.’ Some of these are the same people who insist that schools reopen for in-person learning but without a requirement that children wear masks to prevent spread of this deadly disease.

I’m all for personal freedom, but I have some serious issues with such an absolute definition of freedom that refuses to take into account the ‘rights’ of others and the realization that rights also come with responsibilities and those who insist on being allowed to exercise their rights without assuming any responsibility are in fact confusing freedom with license.

I fully understand and sympathize with parents who desire to do what’s best for their children, but what we as parents decide is best should be based on informed decisions that take science and rational behavior into account. This includes taking into account what’s best for the community. Vaccinations and the reaction to them are a case in point.

In the US, for example, children enrolling in public schools are required to have a series of immunizations designed not just to protect them as individuals but to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases in the schools and communities. People who claim religious exemptions from such vaccinations must accept that their children cannot be admitted to public schools because of the community health risks. Ignoring these common sense precautions, for instance, led to an outbreak of measles in the United States in 2019, with more cases in the first five months of the year (971) and the greatest number of cases since 1994 when there was a total of 963 for the entire year. The US was on track to eliminate measles which caused 400 – 500 annually and 48,000 hospitalizations, until the 2019 outbreak, which could have been avoided if all children and adults who could get vaccinated actually got vaccinated.

This brings us to the vaccination for COVID-19, which is far deadlier than measles and, contrary to popular myth, does infect the young. While children are less likely to die from COVID, they can infect those who are vulnerable to serious illness and death, and studies indicate that an increasingly large number of children, even those with asymptomatic COVID-19 experience long-term effects many months after the initial infection. Studies of children in Italy suggest that more than half of children between 6 and 16 who are infected have at least one symptom lasting more than 120 days, with over 40 percent impaired in their daily activities.

Long-term symptoms include long-lasting fatigue, lung problems, joint pain, brain fog and others. While most of the studies producing these results have involved adults, parents and pediatricians have also noticed these symptoms in children. Children suffering long-term symptoms have and to struggle to make through a day in school, have trouble concentrating, experience fatigue and breathing problems, experience difficulty with schoolwork leading to lower grades, and show decreased performance in athletics and physical activity.

So, it you’re one of these parents insisting that your children return to in-person learning but do not want them vaccinated or be required to wear masks, consider what you might be setting them up for.

In addition to poor academic performance, scientists don’t yet know what all of the long-term problems might be or how long they might last. Concerns about the efficacy and safety of the vaccines are valid but, in my view, unwarranted. Just because they were developed in record time compared to vaccines of the past, does not make them unsafe. We live in an increasingly sophisticated and technological world where scientific advances come much faster than ever, far faster it seems than the human brain can process or comprehend them. I was born before the advent of cell phones and transistor radios but now I wear a watch that has more computing power than the first Apple computer I bought in 1983. No vaccine is 100 percent effective, and there will always be a certain percentage of people who might suffer negative side effects. They pale in comparison to what the disease is likely to do to you or your child, and certainly are worth avoiding you or your child being responsible for passing a deadly disease along to a vulnerable relative, neighbor, friend, or even stranger.

I strongly encourage parents to get vaccinated themselves and unless a doctor recommends against it, have all children ages 5 and up vaccinated. It’s not just a good thing to do for yourself, but it’s what a good citizen would do. – NND