Sunday, September 26, 2021
Sept. 26, 2021

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In Our View: Science should guide parents in vaccine choice

The Columbian

With one COVID-19 vaccine approved for children, parents have a decision to make. As with any other parental choice, reliable and factual information is necessary in order to make the best decision for your child and your family.

More than 123 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus, and now the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is being allowed for people as young as 12. Other vaccines likely will receive similar approval, following rigid testing that helps to ensure safety.

As Dr. Amesh Adalja of Johns Hopkins University said: “While it’s true that children are generally spared from severe disease, the fact that they’ve been unable to be vaccinated has caused major disruptions in their lives that have real developmental consequences. Vaccination of this age cohort will allow these children to more fully return to their normal lives.”

There are numerous benefits to being vaccinated, in addition to protection from COVID-19. Widespread vaccinations will improve the safety of school reopenings; they will protect children who are unable to receive vaccines because of other medical issues; and they will provide peace of mind for both the children and their parents.

While children are less susceptible to COVID-19 than adults, the disease presents risks. The virus has infected more than 1.5 million children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 13,000 have been hospitalized. “It is currently one of the top 10 causes of death in children since the pandemic began,” Dr. Yvonne Maldonado of the American Academy of Pediatrics said.

Still, it is understandable if parents have questions or concerns about giving relatively new vaccines to children. That is where factual information becomes essential.

The United States in recent years has been ripe for misinformation about inoculations, particularly the common MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella) that is required for school attendance. Falsified data about risks of the MMR vaccine was planted 20 years ago by a British doctor and since has bloomed into an anti-vaccine movement.

The result is that there has been a resurgence of measles, which once were considered eliminated in the United States. About 1,300 cases of measles were reported in 2019, with Clark County being one of the hot spots.

Those numbers pale in comparison with 33 million coronavirus cases in the U.S., contributing to 586,000 deaths. In Clark County, more than 22,000 cases and 265 deaths have been reported.

That plays a role in assessing vaccinations for children. Parents should speak with their family physician and seek information from trained health care professionals rather than believing what they hear from a neighbor or read on social media.

As the CDC reports: “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials. The vaccines met the Food and Drug Administration’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality.”

Trials for the approved Pfizer vaccine included 2,000 children in the 12-15 age group. They showed the vaccine is 100 percent effective, while 16 of the 970 children who received a placebo contracted COVID-19. Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said: “The data continue to show that this vaccine is safe and effective.”

That should be a good starting point for parents considering whether to have their children vaccinated.