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THOMPSON: An open letter to parents of children ages five to 11


Sometimes the truth is hard to find — you have to dig for it — something I’m used to as a writer. But sometimes the truth is right there in front of you, no digging necessary.

This is an open letter to parents of children from five to 11 years old. Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine last Friday, and the province will begin vaccinating this age group…about 360,000 children…immediately. Children depend on parents to make the best possible decisions…and in matters of life and death…parents should rely on facts, truths and science.

Here are some facts…and myths…about vaccinating children these ages with the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty vaccine… which is one-third the dose of an adult vaccine…10 micrograms versus 30 micrograms…delivered in two shots three weeks apart.

A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on health issues, found that 27 percent of parents of five- to 11-year-olds are eager to get their children vaccinated as soon as it is authorized, while a third say they will wait a while to see how the vaccine is working. Some 30 percent say they definitely will not vaccinate their children…no matter what.

Here’s the first dose of truth…almost no digging required…from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Nearly 2.8 million children in the U.S. ages five to 11 have been vaccinated…with not a single death.

On the other hand, 172 unvaccinated children between five and 11 have died from COVID-19. Wait a while? Why risk even a small chance of death for a child? Do you expect the results from thousands more vaccinations in B.C. to mysteriously differ from the results of 2.8 million vaccinations already completed? That’s not science.

Another dose of truth. The 30 percent of parents who say they definitely will not vaccinate their young children…well, they’re playing with the lives of their own children. Remember, too, that young children can be carriers of the virus - especially the Delta variant - and can infect others…especially older adults and grandparents who are at much higher risk of death.

What seems to spread faster than the COVID-19 virus…is health misinformation and disinformation, which still threatens the worldwide response to COVID-19 and continues to make people reticent about getting vaccinated. People who accept social media anecdotes and lies over science give life to this pandemic…eschewing vaccinations kills more people…every day.

Time for a myth widely circulated on social media…with no evidence to support it: vaccines were rushed and aren’t safe for children. Truth: performance is everything…immune responses of children 5 through 11 years of age are comparable to those 16 through 25 years of age. In addition, the vaccine is 90.7 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 5 through 11.

The Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty vaccine’s safety was studied in 3,106 children age 5 through 11 who received the vaccine in trials…and no serious side effects have been detected in this ongoing study.

Both the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC say risks of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of tissue surrounding the heart) following vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty COVID-19 Vaccine increase some, but much less than those unvaccinated who contract COVID-19.

In fact, the CDC reports that unvaccinated children and adults who contract COVID-19 are on average 15 times more likely to develop myocarditis or pericarditis than through vaccination. In the clinical trials, not a single case of of myocarditis or pericarditis occurred among more than 3,000 children.

The CDC’s latest data show that 172 children ages 5 to 11 have died from COVID-19 and more than 8,300 have been hospitalized. Also, more than 2,300 of children hospitalized  - nearly one in four - developed MIS-C…a related illness that affects multiple organs and can be fatal. No children have died from side effects of the vaccination…with myocarditis and pericarditis treated successfully in all adults.

Another popular myth circulating on social media is that young children don’t need the vaccine anyway because they rarely get COVID-19, and if they do it’s mild. The truth: children can and do contract COVID-19, though their cases tend to be less severe than those seen in adults. However, children - like adults - can and do carry the virus and transmit it to others.

Also, the Delta variant is the most dominant strain among children and it is extremely contagious. More children are being hospitalized with severe COVID-19 infection than was seen earlier in the pandemic…and again, with more than 8,300 hospitalized…172 have died.

Another myth making the rounds: my child had COVID-19 and recovered, so the vaccination isn’t necessary. Truth: scientists don’t know how long antibodies might protect a child…it’s safer by far to get vaccinated than wait and see.

Two other popular myths: the vaccine will affect my child’s DNA…and the vaccine will give my child COVID-19. No to both…period. Yet another myth circulating is that your child might get blood clots. Not true. The only vaccine that had any issues of blood clots…and they were rare…is AstraZeneca…and that was among adults. There is no history of blood clots with Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine…for adults or children.

If you’re a parent of children five to 11 years old…and you’re hesitant about the vaccine…or want to “wait and see”…you should spend time on the CDC, FDA, Health Canada, Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins websites. Rely on reputable sources…not FaceBook…not Instagram…not YouTube…not your best friend’s cousin’s advice.

Get the facts…truths. And as far as the 30 percent who say they’ll never get their children vaccinated…I can’t even fathom that kind of anti-science ignorance and/or selfishness.

Parents owe it to their children to make informed decisions and as parents do their utmost to protect those children. Thanks to the 27 percent of parents who say they will vaccinate their five- to 11-year-old at the earliest opportunity.

And to the nearly two-thirds of parents with children those ages…you need to understand the decision to vaccinate against COVID-19 affects not only your children, but you, your parents, friends…strangers…the community at large.

It’s long past time we started acting like a real community…caring about each other enough to do the right things in matters of life and death. There is one right thing to do when it comes to vaccinations for young children…just like adults.

Vaccinations save lives…COVID-19 kills. As a parent either hesitant to vaccinate your children or as a parent unwilling to ever vaccinate your children, you should ask yourself - because truth, facts and science don’t support your current positions - why am I making a simple decision not only difficult…but dangerous?

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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