If you are the parent of a child aged five and above and have spent any time on social media recently, you may have seen a lot of discourse about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for children.
It can be confusing, upsetting, and overwhelming to read such conflicting views that suggest the vaccine may not be as safe as the federal and state governments - and ATAGI and the TGA - suggest.
To help address some of the common theories questioning the need for children to have the vaccine, the Newcastle Herald has approached Associate Professor Nathan Bartlett, from the University of Newcastle.
He is a viral immunologist who is head of the Viral Immunology and Respiratory Disease Group with Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI). He has also played a key role in the research and development of a nasal spray that could help prevent COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.
He has been researching vaccines and treatments for viral diseases for more than 20 years.
So, he knows his stuff. As children prepare to get back to school, we put the following statements to Associate Professor Bartlett to get to the root of what's true, what's false, and why vaccinating children is important.
This is not true. In the USA, for example, there have been 280 deaths in children aged from zero to four years, and 600 deaths in 5-to-18-year-olds.
The WHO has not withdrawn recommendation that children 5-to-11 get vaccinated. WHO recommends Pfizer vaccine for 5-to-11-year-olds, noting they are less likely to get severe disease so priority vaccination should be given to at risk populations - like the elderly, people with chronic disease, and immune suppressed. Given Australia has a very high level of immunisation, then the way is clear to vaccinate children.
The WHO says: "Countries should consider the individual and population benefits of immunising children and adolescents in their specific epidemiological and social context when developing their COVID-19 immunisation policies and programs. As children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, unless they are in a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers.
More from Professor Bartlett: Why getting boosted is a pain in the arm
"There are benefits of vaccinating children and adolescents that go beyond the direct health benefits. Vaccination that decreases COVID transmission in this age group may reduce transmission from children and adolescents to older adults, and may help reduce the need for mitigation measures in schools. "Minimising disruptions to education for children and maintenance of their overall well-being, health and safety are important considerations. Countries' strategies related to COVID-19 control should facilitate children's participation in education and other aspects of social life, and minimise school closures, even without vaccinating children and adolescents."
And this from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on November 2, 2021: "CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky - M.D., M.P.H. - endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' recommendation that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. CDC now expands vaccine recommendations to about 28 million children in the United States in this age group and allows providers to begin vaccinating them as soon as possible."
None have died from the vaccine. However COVID-19 has, in comparison, been linked to many deaths in children - although experts have identified that such cases are extremely rare.
The CDC reported that in the US, as of January 19, there had been 862 deaths involving COVID-19 among those aged up to 18.
In Australia, there have been three COVID-19-associated deaths among children aged nine or younger as of January 19. A further three deaths had been recorded in those aged 10 to 19.
These numbers are not correct. The most recent data estimates that 1 per cent of children with the Omicron variant require admission to hospital. The sheer number of infections in the community do mean we are seeing more children in hospital than previously, however, a small percentage of these children will die. Severe illness and death is preventable if children are vaccinated.
This is not true. Billions of doses of COVID vaccines have been administered globally since December 2020. They are undoubtedly safe and efficacious.
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