Here’s how we might think about the upsides and downsides of COVID vaccination for this group of kids aged 12 thru 15.
Hey, guys, so the FDA announced that they have Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer mRNA vaccine for kids aged 12 through 15 based on a trial they did and here’s what I think about that. It isn’t a slam dunk. You would think Mr. Pro-Vax here would be like, “Hell yeah, give it to everybody,” but here are the pros and cons of this and here’s what you need to know in order to think about this clearly.
And people are gonna disagree with me. Eh, come with it, man. I dare you to call me an anti-vaxxer, all right? I just dare you. Okay, here’s the deal. The Pfizer trial looked at 2,600 kids, split it in half, placebo and vaccine. In the placebo group, 16 or 18 kids got COVID. In the vaccine group, zero kids got COVID. So they’re calling that 100% efficacy, which it is. It’s a smaller trial than the trials that were used for adults but it looks pretty good. Now, what we don’t know is how sick were the 16 or 18 kids that were COVID-positive in the placebo group. Were you preventing hospitalization or death?
The answer is probably not because the risk in kids ages 12 through 15 is not that high. Now, about 1.6-odd million of them got infected with COVID over the course of the pandemic in the US, but how many of them died, were hospitalized, had multisystem inflammatory syndrome of children or other adverse long-term consequences? Much, much, much smaller. And generally, not always but generally, those kids are higher risk.
So they have obesity or some other medical problem that puts them at risk. So that being said, it’s not the highest risk population, unlike older adults, et cetera. So they looked at it and said, “Okay, well, it’s very effective,” and the FDA looked at all the data and said, “Well, what are the adverse events in the trial?” So what went wrong? Well, about 2% of kids had basically the man flu, like what I had with my second Moderna shot, and it was worse after a second shot just like in the adult trial and the immunogenicity that they measured through blood testing was actually very similar to the adults.
It was not worse than the adults. So we know it triggers immune response, we know it’s effective, but the adverse events were very similar, 2%. So headaches, fevers, man flu, muscle aches, fatigue. Now, in kids, that’s often enough to knock them out of school for a couple days. So it can last from 24 hours to, you know, a few hours, some people get nothing, to three days or sometimes, rarely, longer. So, you know, your kid’s out of school potentially ’cause they can’t really function with a splitting headache and a fever and all that, and I’m not sure a lot of teachers want them in school with a fever, if they’re even in in-person school, which is . So that being said, it looks like the data said, well, it’s about as safe as it is in adults.
Although, it’s a smaller trial. So only about, you know, a thousand-some-odd kids got the actual vaccine as opposed to the adult trials, which was tens of thousands, but now millions of people have gotten these mRNA vaccines and we see really no strong safety signal beyond anaphylaxis risk of allergies in some people, and kids can have that too, so you do it in a medically supervised setting. But what is the benefit for these kids? Now, by the way, there is the small chance that there’s a adverse event that we’re not seeing in this small sample size. Not likely a long-term event because we just don’t see that in vaccines. More likely something like what happened in Johnson & Johnson where you don’t see it show up until you vaccinate millions of people.
Now, with adults, that’s one thing. With kids, when you give a kid an adverse event, even if it’s like one in 100,000, you better hope the benefit is there because you’re harming a kid who has 80 quality life years ahead of them, right? It’s not like me who’s gonna, like, die tomorrow. And so what’s the benefit that’s gonna outweigh this very tiny risk or the bit of unknown risk with this vaccine? ‘Cause this is Emergency Use Authorization right now for a pandemic emergency. Is it an emergency in kids? Is there a benefit? Well, what’s the benefit? You maybe get a few less cases of COVID. Death-wise, the benefit’s probably quite small, and long-term disability-wise, the benefit’s probably quite small. So for the kids themselves, the other benefit would be, well, they’re a little more confident, they’re a little less afraid. Their parents’ transmitted anxiety is not catching up with them.
Maybe they feel more comfortable taking masks off outside, which they should have done anyways. And then maybe there’s a benefit where people are saying, “Oh, you know, they can go back to normal.” Well, here’s the thing about that benefit. That’s a BS benefit because they never should, this idea that we’re inflicting some ideal of normalcy back on them, we never should have taken it away from them in the first place.
They should have been in school with masks with teachers who are vaccinated. This should have been happening anyways. They should be able to play outside without masks on because the transmission risk is infinitesimal. So using vaccine benefit, oh, well, the benefit is we can get them back to normal. We’ll get them back into school and take the masks off outside. Shut up, that’s the dumbest reason to vaccinate the kids.
So, sorry, that just gets me upset. The other benefits may be real. So what about this? Spreading it to a vulnerable adult. If we vaccinate this population of kids, there’s gonna be less pool of circulating virus, kind of more closer to community immunity, and we’re not going to kill Uncle Bob who didn’t get vaccinated. Okay, here’s what I think of that. First of all, we’re already getting to community immunity without the kids. And it won’t be perfect. It’s not gonna be like a sterilizing herd immunity like measles or something because this is coronavirus. It’s gonna be with us.
But we’re dropping hospitalizations, dropping ICUs, dropping deaths. That’s what we care about. Do we need to vaccinate these kids to protect vulnerable adults who maybe got the vaccine but it’s less effective, like that 10% that it doesn’t work for, or Uncle Bob, who thinks there’s nanobots in your vaccine and won’t get it? Let me ask you this question. Why the heck should I vaccinate my 13-year-old daughter to protect somebody who’s chosen not to get a vaccine that’s been shown safe and effective? No, that’s not a good reason to vaccinate that child.
Now, there are the vulnerable adults but what is the transmission from children to adults? Very small. Very small from the data that I’ve seen. And again, you can haggle over this, there’s nuance here, but my feeling is that’s not a super compelling reason to vaccinate this population. So what is? Well, if the kid is high risk, if they have obesity, diabetes, hypertension, which kids now have because they’re more obese, they’re more sick. We feed them poison, basically, in the name of convenience and in the name of being poor and not being able to afford to go to Whole Foods or Whole Paycheck and get Fancy Feast for your kids, right? They’re drinking Dr Pepper out of sippy cups. So those kids are at high risk. And that brings up another thing here.
There’s an equity piece. So by vaccinating kids in high-risk communities, could we be protecting those same high-risk communities who are maybe fearing the vaccine or at the highest risk of getting COVID because they have chronic disease, diseases of poverty? Yeah. Are their parents gonna take them to get that vaccine though? Probably not if they’re not getting it themselves. So these are tough questions. Speaking of equity, should we be shipping our vaccine to countries where they need it for vulnerable adults where they’re breeding new variants because it’s replicating everywhere or should we give it to our kids who are like meh at risk? So who are we really protecting? Oh, by vaccinating those kids, are we protecting younger kids that can’t be vaccinated yet because they’re still being studied and they can’t even look at endpoints like actual infection and death because it’s so rare in kids? They have to look at immunogenicity. Does it generate an immune response?
I mean, are those kids gonna infect the little kids? Okay, let’s say they do. Who cares? Most of them aren’t gonna be sick. Now, of course, don’t forget the other cost of vaccinating these kids. You’ve gotta take the time to take them to the doctor. There’s two shots three weeks apart. They’re gonna be laid up, potentially, with symptoms, real or imagined. And, now, the good thing, there’s a plus there, they get seen by a doc, which is great. So they get to interface with the medical system, which has been missing for the last pandemic. So now they may be getting caught up with other vaccines, maybe they get other stuff, like the detection of domestic abuse and figuring out if there’s problems in virtual or real school and the kind of things that pediatricians are really good at.
Now, I think the American College of Pediatricians, or Pediatrics, has said, you know, “We think this is great. This is gonna lead to community immunity.” And look, I totally get it. I personally think that this is a much more nuanced argument. The other question is, should an Emergency Use Authorization apply to this age group? Is it an emergency in this age group? I don’t think so. I’m gonna be point-blank with you. I don’t think this is an emergency in that age group and I don’t think it’s creating an emergency for other age groups.
I think every last ounce of our messaging and our energy and our money and our vaccines should go to vaccinating every adult who’s willing to be vaccinated, willing to be vaccinated. We don’t need to force them. We then get to a point where we’re not overwhelming hospitals, the people who are dying made the choice not to get the vaccine, hey, that’s cool, and kids are generally safe but they have the choice to get the vaccine if they and their parents wanna do it and then we have something called a combination of autonomy, decision-making, unique person at hand, and community, where we’re doing something also that benefits the community, and our lack of getting vaccinated as a young kid is not gonna damage the community.
That’s what I think where we are. So what would I do for my own 13-year-old daughter? Well, the first thing I do is I ask her, “Do you want this vaccine?” She said yes because she doesn’t wanna get COVID. She’s seen enough where she’s like, “I don’t want that.” And I saw Daddy got his Moderna vaccine and he was laid up with man flu and that’ll get me off school for a day, so yeah, I’m down with that.” And then there’s my decision and my wife’s decision. Well, okay, do we wanna give her this vaccine and have to go and give her two doses and all that when she’s generally low risk? Well, let’s see. We’re gonna take her mask off when she’s outside, pretty soon we’re gonna be taking our masks off inside, and we plan to travel with her all around.
My wife and I are vaccinated. Well, wouldn’t it be nice not to have to worry about her getting COVID and then having to quarantine, getting my younger daughter sick, so they’re both out of commission, even though it’s unlikely they’re both out of commission, wreck the vacation and wreck school, all that, and potentially, potentially, give it to someone who was vaccinated who the vaccine wasn’t effective for. I don’t want that on my conscience and I care a bit about the community, about the externalities of vaccine benefit. So for her, my 13-year-old will be getting the vaccine and I will livestream it. But for you, that’s the information you need to know to make a decision. Now, people would say, “Well,” and you’ll see this online, the pro-vax crowd is like , digging in their heels, “This is it, we gotta do it,” and the anti-vax crowd is, “Oh, hell no, not my kid. My kid, their body, my choice,” et cetera.
All of that is belief-based, emotional-based decision-making. I am telling you right now my belief structure is biased towards vaccines. I love them. I think they’re great. Childhood vaccines are the greatest gift to public health that has ever happened, along with sanitation. The rest of medicine is garbage by comparison. It’s truly garbage by comparison. That’s my bias, and I’m telling you I have a nuanced thing because I will hold my belief up and go, okay, this belief needs to be challenged with this data, this nuance, and this critical thinking so that it never blinds me, forces me to confirm my bias, believe misinformation or believe one side when you could think through it yourself, and it’s what we call the alt-middle. It’s a radical way of thinking critically and the only belief you have is that all your beliefs should be examined constantly.
All right, guys, do me a favor. Share this video with anyone, any parent who’s wondering about what to do about this. More data will probably come out. I told you where I stand on it and what the nuance is. And we need to get masks off kids outside, we need to get them back in school, we need to get back to normal because this pandemic is ending in the United States. We need to help countries where it’s not ending so it doesn’t come back to bite us. And you need to join my supporter tribe if you believe in what we’re doing and you want to be the sole sponsor of this show so that we’re in your pocket. ‘Cause I tell you, ain’t no pharma paying me. You can look it up online. All right, guys, I love you. Until next time, we are out. Peace.
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