I have already made the argument that the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, as well as all other COVID-19 vaccines for that matter, are not to be recommended in healthy children and young adults. The risks simply do not clearly outweigh the benefits.How likely are the benefits of preventing infections in healthy young adults and children?Children and young adults do not tend to suffer serious COVID-19 disease, and post-viral syndrome is quite rare in young people. Data from the UK show that only 23 children and young adults under 30 years of age died of COVID-19 alone, without any other co-morbidity, in the 23 months between February 2020 and December 2021. COVID-19 is likely to be even less lethal with the new variants. Although the vaccines prevent infection for a short period, and hospital admission for somewhat longer, the risks are so small that the absolute benefits in healthy individuals are necessarily even smaller.
What are the potential risks?The mRNA vaccines can cause as many cases, or more, of myocarditis than COVID-19 disease itself. In males under 40, the first dose of the Moderna vaccine was found to be associated with 12 excess cases of myocarditis per million patients, whilst the second was associated with 101 excess events per million. The first, second and third doses of the Pfizer vaccine were associated with 3, 12 and 13 excess cases per million respectively. The number of excess cases of myocarditis reported in males under 40 after COVID-19 infection was only 7 per million, in comparison. Thus, three doses of the mRNA vaccines can cause many more cases of myocarditis than COVID-19 infection itself, in young males. There are many other documented serious adverse events associated with these vaccines, including thrombosis, neurological disorders, bleeding disorders, cardiovascular disorders, auto-immune conditions, long-term tiredness and malaise, and others. Although rare when considered individually, they add up, and could be as common as one per thousand, or two thousand, in cases taking three shots of the mRNA vaccines. There seems to be a trend to become commoner with each subsequent dose.
What about preventing cases in others?One argument which has been repeatedly made for vaccinating young adults and children is that vaccination is not only for their protection, but is also intended to prevent new infections, and then prevent transmission. We already know that vaccines do not prevent transmission. This recent article in the New York Times reports on a study that dispels the myth that vaccines stop children getting the disease for any appreciable time. "Vaccine effectiveness against infection in the older children (12-17 years) decreased to 51 percent from 66 percent. But in the younger children (5-11), it dropped sharply to just 12 percent from 68 percent." That, in just six weeks after vaccination. Let us not forget that an efficacy of 50% was the threshold chosen for minimal acceptable efficacy by the WHO for approval of these vaccines.
"The vaccine’s effectiveness against hospitalization declined to 73 percent from 85 percent in the older children (12-17 years). In the younger children (5-11), effectiveness dropped to 48 percent from 100 percent." Again, in just six weeks.Is it worth it?So, in summary, those who chose to vaccinate their children and adolescents against COVID-19 likely exposed them to a rare but significant risk of myocarditis, even higher than from COVID-19 infection itself. Such risk just gets worse with additional doses. In return, the protection against COVID-19 infection fell to below acceptable levels in just six weeks, according to the most recent data. Protection against hospitalisation seems to last longer, but such an outcome is so infrequent that the benefit in absolute terms is almost negligible. A recent interview with a leading paediatrician carried in the Times of Malta reported only 5 children with significant COVID-19 illness throughout the pandemic, and all recovered.The benefits of COVID-19 vaccines in those at high risk, especially the elderly and those with co-morbidity, are much larger than any risk. COVID-19 is a lethal disease in the elderly. However, the one-size-fits-all approach to vaccination seems to have been misguided, and may have exposed large numbers of children and young adults to rare but significant risks, to little and very short-liver absolute benefits.We need good quality safety data before we recommend a new medicinal to the public. The safety tests take time, and this can cause frustration, especially with a raging pandemic. However, the alternative may be to do more harm than good. The fact that these vaccines have been pushed with punitive measures, when the safety data were incomplete, is now a position which can be hardly defended in the light of emerging data. Yet, it is early days. Let us not forget the first Hippocratic dictum "Primum non nocere". First, do no harm.