Over the weekend, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted unanimously to approve COVID vaccines for youth. Based on these approvals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that children aged six months to five years be vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna.
There are 19.3 million children in this age group for whom COVID vaccines have remained unavailable since the vaccinations were introduced in December 2020.
While the number of young children dying from COVID remains low so far (about 442 children under the age of five according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), that number is much higher than the number of flu deaths in the same age group. As Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stanford University noted, “Children shouldn’t die from anything.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children accounted for nearly 19 percent of all cumulative COVID cases in the United States. However, seroprevalence data based on blood samples, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicate that about 75 percent of all children 18 years of age or younger have been infected, much higher than 60 percent. for all residents.
This means that children represent the most affected group, a point that must be contrasted with the relentless claims by capitalist politicians and the media that children are somehow immune to the ravages of the virus.
Since the pandemic, the AAP has reported that more than 1.3 million children have been hospitalized with COVID, a number that is known to be greatly underestimated. Nearly a quarter of a million children were hospitalized during the three months of the first Omicron wave that began in early December 2021 and ended in February 2022. According to the CDC’s provisional death tally from COVID, 1,257 children died during the pandemic, 20% of them during the Omicron wave.
These numbers may seem small compared to the frightening number of deaths among the elderly and the immunocompromised, but they are much higher than the numbers of children hospitalized and dying from influenza in the same age group.
The 2017-2018 flu season saw 42,386 children hospitalized, the worst in a decade, compared to a quarter of a million hospitalizations in the first three months of this year due to the coronavirus.
There have also been 110 deaths among the youngest and a total of 526 children have died this flu season, compared to the more than 1,200 killed by SARS-CoV-2. In the current flu season, only 29 children have died, in large part due to the limited mitigation measures in place, including masking. In the past month alone, nearly 60 children have died from the coronavirus.
A study published in an advance print from Imperial College London reviews deaths from COVID in children. reveals that “Covid was one of the leading causes of death among children and youth aged 0-19 in the United States between March 2020 and April 2022. It ranks ninth among all causes of death, but is the fifth leading cause of death-related illness (excluding accidents, assaults and suicides) Finally, it is at the forefront of deaths from infectious disease or respiratory diseases.Specifically, for children under five, it ranks in the top five.
All of these numbers don’t even address the broader issue of prolonged COVID and its unknown long-term impact on the health of children who have a longer time to live and develop symptoms than older adults.
These facts make the approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines a welcome step forward, even if it has significant limitations, as we shall see.
Pfizer and Moderna presented the results of their clinical trials to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) advisory committee on June 15. They note that these vaccines are safe and produce an antibody response similar to that of older children and adults. The committee unanimously recommended vaccines.
There are differences between the two versions of the pediatric mRNA vaccines that are important to consider.
The Pfizer treatment regimen consists of three injections, each containing three micrograms, or one-tenth of the adult dose. The second injection is given three weeks later after the first and third months, so it takes a total of three months to complete the series.
The pediatric trials were small, with fewer than 1,000 participants. Only 10 children actually contracted COVID, seven in the placebo group and three in the vaccinated group. Pfizer’s initial two-dose regimen failed to generate an adequate immune response, leading the company to announce in December 2021 that it would add a third dose to its regimen.
As STAT News noted Pfizer’s limited efficacy data, “This resulted from Pfizer’s syringe not being effective enough as a two-dose vaccine to warrant authorization. The company, in consultation with the FDA, decided to test a third dose, but there simply wasn’t enough time for it to happen.” Cases of COVID: Food and Drug Administration officials say they are confident the three-dose regimen protects as well as two doses in other age groups.
Notably, the FDA confidence was based on the rate of antibodies generated after participants completed the vaccine series. In its review of outcomes for children aged 2 to 4 years and infants aged 6 to 23 months, Pfizer noted that “antibody responses in both age groups were similar to those observed in subjects aged 16 to 25 years who were given Immunize them with two doses of 30 mcg and previously met. Specific success criteria “…
Moderna vaccine is a two-dose schedule containing 25 micrograms each, or one-fourth of the adult dose. The injections are given four weeks apart. Although children complete the series of vaccinations faster with Moderna, side effects, although transient, may be more severe. While those from Pfizer were limited to pain at the injection site and some fatigue, which soon resolved, in Moderna’s trial, one of the children had an epileptic seizure presumably caused by a high fever after vaccination.
“Apart from the bout of fever, it was nothing to worry about. For me it was very reassuring,” said an FDA panel member who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.
Moderna’s experience was even larger, with nearly 5,000 participants. Efficacy against symptomatic infection ranged from about 37 to 51 percent, with 265 children developing COVID-19, making the data stronger and more applicable. Additionally, in Moderna’s trial, more participants who received the active ingredient developed a fever after the second dose of the vaccine, while the adverse effects in the Pfizer recipients and the placebo group were similar.
Other side effects of vaccines are loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, irritability, fever, and pain at the injection site. With Moderna, children may develop swollen lymph nodes in the vaccinated arm. The trials were too small to assess carditis, which has rarely occurred in adolescent boys. Questions have already been raised about recalls, as immune depletion is rapid with vaccines and the Omicron strain sub variants of SARS-CoV-2 are known to have a significant potential for immune evasion.
While ensuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines is critical, the CDC and the Biden government will use this hack to advance their claim that a vaccine-only approach is an effective response to the pandemic. They seek to justify abandoning blanket health measures that ensure mandatory wearing of masks, tracking of all COVID cases and provision of robust and accurate data to public health services including infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
More than a year and a half after the introduction of the COVID vaccines, the vaccination strategy has only proven to have failed miserably. Post-vaccination infections are very common and vaccines have not reduced the long-term risks of COVID, nor the effect of the virus on various organs. The Zero-COVID campaign remains the only viable solution to the pandemic that continues to wreak havoc on working populations around the world.
(The article was first published in English on June 21, 2022)