Submitted by Dr. Stephanie Paulmeno, Public Health Promotion Specialist, Greenwich Department of Health
Parental concerns are always heightened when it comes to their children and the perceived unknowns. In public health we look at good outcomes by weighing the advantages against the potential for harm. Will vaccines provide greater value for the health and safety of our children, or is potential harm a greater risk than getting COVID-19 or one of its more contagious mutations now here in Connecticut? Discussion on this issue falls on both sides of the equation and considers the following factors.
Is every child equally at risk of contracting Covid-19 or one of its variants? What conditions place my child at high-risk where I should seriously consider vaccination? How many children have contracted COVID and how many have become dreadfully ill or died? How is testing on children conducted? Are the research studies sufficient to assure me that my child is better off getting vaccinated than getting COVID? How severe are vaccine side effects, and how many children get them proportional to the number of vaccines given? Are the side effects mild or able to be readily treated?
One of the treacherous things about viruses is that they mutate and sometimes change into a whole new virus. These mutations, especially the Delta variant (from India) is demonstrating a more virulent and more contagious impact on younger people. It is being closely monitored. This would be another reason to consider vaccinating your youngsters.
A Johns Hopkins collaborative study (https://www.medpagetoday.com/opinion/mary-makary/93029)
showed that 100% of pediatric COVID deaths occurred in children with pre-existing conditions. Many COVID-infected children suffered the very painful “Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C)”, with potential long-term health impact. The CDC reported 4,018 cases of MIS-C in COVID- infected children.
Their average age was 9 years old. Many, but not all, were Black, Hispanic, and Latino; populations where chronic conditions in children, as well as childhood obesity are more prevalent (https://www.cdc.gov/mis-c/cases/index.html); 36 children have died! If your child, regardless of race or ethnicity, is overweight or has underlying health conditions, strongly consider vaccinating your child. This would include but is not limited to obesity, T.B, diabetes, asthma and other chronic lung conditions, sickle cell anemia, any of a number of rare diseases, and childhood cancers.
Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been shown to be 100% effective in preventing COVID in children, however at this time, only Pfizer can be administered to children 12 to 17 years old. This success rate has led scientists to wonder if two doses are needed in children. Could a lower or single dose protect them?
These mRNA vaccines, however, seem linked to a relatively small number of cases (18) of heart muscle inflammation in Connecticut teen boys and young adult males after their 2nd vaccine dose (Connecticut’s Acting Health Director, Dr. Deirdre Gifford). Regardless, this is a rare finding given the many thousands of vaccines administered to this group (https://www.connecticutchildrens.org/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccine-now-
It is seen predominantly in males, symptoms were mild, and those affected went home. Of those who developed this inflammation, 80% recovered on their own. While these 18 were hospitalized for a couple of days, and some needed treatment, they all recovered and went home. It is also important to note that myocarditis also occurs in non-vaccinated people at a lower rate. I ask parents, when weighing their options, to consider that a COVID-19 infection, including the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome seen in children with COVID, can also cause heart inflammation, heart-muscle scarring and muscle cell death. Viruses invade your cells and destroy them. That is their mission. It’s what viruses do. It is not what mRNA vaccines do.
The CDC has not yet conclusively determined that the vaccines are responsible for the inflammation that is occasionally seen. Cases of myocarditis occur regularly, but in somewhat lesser amounts. Teens and people in their early 20s reportedly account for over 50% of these myocarditis cases (CDC). It is essential for parents to bear in mind that neither the Moderna nor Pfizer mRNA vaccines contain any COVID virus or any virus at all!
Thus in post-vaccination myocarditis, COVID is not what is inflaming any part of the heart. More likely, it is the body’s own immune system defense-response to a potential COVID infection that results when the body launches its antibody response. This is what vaccines are supposed to trigger and what accounts for the routine and expected side effects some of us get post vaccination. This myocarditis reportedly does not respond to antiviral treatment because the vaccine has no virus in it to fight off.
Each parent must make their own call on whether or not to vaccinate their children. We urge all people to make that decision together with their primary care provider, (MD, APRN, PA). As a practicing healthcare provider for 53 years, and as a Nationally Board-Certified public health professional, I can tell you that I would be first in line to get my own children vaccinated at any age.
We do not know what lies ahead of us in terms of another surge or a new COVID-mutation outbreak; but we do know what COVID can do to an organ, to multiple organs, and to people across the age-span. We have watched that devastation for over a year and buried our losses.
Our adult population in the country and in Connecticut remains under-vaccinated so we cannot attain herd immunity. The virus will continue to seek out our weakest links to survive. Please don’t let that be our children. I urge you to consider the facts and make your best judgement call.