Is it necessary and ethical to give the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to children age 6 months to 12 years? Dr. Walter Dehority, pediatric infectious disease expert at UNM School of Medicine, thinks so and will play a key part in a national clinical trial on this age group to begin early this summer, as reported in the Journal April 6.
Let’s look at the first part of the question: Is it necessary? Children have an extraordinary record of either not contracting COVID-19 or being asymptomatic or having mild symptoms, of rarely being hospitalized and of virtually never dying.
The American Academy of Pediatrics in its Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report states:
“Children were 00.0%-0.19% of all COVID-19 deaths, and 10 states reported zero child deaths.
“In states reporting, 00.0%-0.03% of all COVID-19 cases resulted in death.
“Between 0.1%-2.0% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization.”
Takeaway: children are rarely hospitalized and at virtually no risk of dying from COVID-19. Wherefore the need for a vaccine for an illness of far less morbidity than measles, mumps, whooping cough, etc.?
Part two: Is it ethical? The safety of this vaccine long-term is not known and will not be known until at least two or more years have passed. The proposed trial will follow the children for one year following the second shot, definitely not long enough to evaluate long-term effects.
A 6-month-old has no capacity to consent, and presumably a 12-year-old has none either. Therefore, a parent will have to sign a consent form. Is it ethical to allow a child to receive a vaccine for an illness that produces no or extremely mild symptoms in children with the possibility of untoward effects down the road? What if, God forbid, some of these 6,750 children slated to take part in this study develop autoimmune problems or cognitive decline?
When we do a risk-benefit analysis we have to ask: What are the benefits to giving a jab for an innocuous, in this age group, illness vs. the unknown and possibly significant risks down the road?
In the Journal article Dehority claims the Moderna vaccine is particularly safe because it uses new messenger RNA technology. This is a completely unsubstantiated assertion as the long-term effects of this vaccine are not known.
When it comes to vaccinating the future generation, best to play it safe.