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Friday , 21 January 2022

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Bonnyville Physician Team looks to clear misconceptions regarding childhood covid vaccinations

To Whom it May Concern,

 

We recently became aware of an editorials in the Lakeland Connect discussing the COVID-19 vaccine for children. While expressing concern is normal with anything that is new, we would like to address the misinformation in this editorial and perhaps provide some insight for undecided parents.

 

The author centralizes their argument around “recent findings by pathologists Arne Burkhardt and Walter Lang,” specifically, a “press conference” from the Institute of Pathology. However, little to no information on the researchers nor their findings can be found beyond a Twitter post and obscure foreign language websites. Should parents really be making their decision to vaccinate their children based on unsubstantiated Twitter research?

 

Regarding inflammatory symptoms, almost 5 million children aged 5 to 11 have received the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, with 1 million of these children being fully vaccinated (US News, 2021). Yet, no cases of myocarditis, pericarditis or any other serious adverse event have been reported (Canadian Paediatric Society, 2021). This real world data supports the findings from the Pfizer clinical trial of over 2000 healthy children aged 5 to 11, where there were no serious adverse effects or any cases of myocarditis or anaphylaxis (Food and Drug Administration, 2021). If you’re a parent weighing the risks and benefits, then here’s the bottom line: the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and the longer you wait to vaccinate your child, the longer you expose them to potential infection.

 

Children make up 20-30% of COVID-19 cases in Canada and the USA (Alberta Health, 2021; Government of Canada, 2021). In the USA, more than 3.78M children have been infected and over 500 have died (CDC, 2021).  These are more than 500 young lives that were lost.  More than 500 families. Parents who have lost their child due to a virus that could have been prevented by vaccination.

Updated as of December 6th, 2021. Retrieved from Alberta.ca. Image details the rates of hospitalization and vaccine status. Red indicates those who are unvaccinated who have been admitted to hospital.

 

 

In the original article, a school and youth facilitator expressed concerns about the effects of COVID-19 vaccines on cancer and fertility. Based on our understanding of how COVID-19 vaccines work, none of the vaccines interact with or alter your DNA, and therefore cannot cause cancer (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center). Furthermore, the claim that fertility is affected by the COVID-19 stems from a false social media report that the vaccine targets a protein involved in the growth of the placenta during pregnancy. COVID-19 vaccines do not damage the placenta, affect sperm production, nor does it lead to increased stillbirth or miscarriage. There is no evidence that any vaccine used to date has caused fertility problems (American Pharmacists Association, 2021)

 

COVID-19 symptoms are not trivial. Fever, cough, fatigue, aches and pains, are just some of the many symptoms. The list could go on including MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome) which is a serious condition. Different parts of the body – the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, digestive system, brain, skin or eyes – become severely inflamed. Affected children can face difficulty breathing, severe pain, and an inability to wake up or stay awake (Mayo Clinic, 2021). This is the risk parents expose their children to if they refuse to vaccinate.

 

Even among children who recover, they can develop a post-COVID-19 reaction known as Long COVID.  In a case report of 5 children with potential long COVID, their symptoms lasted 6 to 8 months after the initial COVID-19 diagnosis and none had fully returned to school. Anyone who has had COVID-19 can experience long-term symptoms which include tiredness, fatigue, headaches, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, muscle and joint pain, and coughs (Mayo Clinic, 2021). While improvement is possible, it may require many months of multi-disciplinary management and can have significant impacts on a child’s education and socialization (Ontario Ministry of Health, 2021).

 

Every single child that goes to school interacts with multiple other children in a single given day. Each additional vaccination for a child reduces the spread of COVID-19 and allows them to continue in-person learning, which is crucial to their social and emotional development. The vaccine is 100% effective in preventing severe COVID infection and 91% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID in children ages 5 through 11 (Mayo Clinic, 2021), reducing the chance that a child will get this disease. This statistic is crucial – we need to protect our children and their future.

 

COVID-19 has already led to significant educational losses over the course of the pandemic, with 17 weeks of province-wide school closures in Alberta alone (Gallagher-Mackay et al, 2021 COVID-19 Science Advisory Table). This does not even account for individual classroom closures and students isolating due to symptoms or being household contacts. On an individual level, COVID-19 symptoms can affect your child’s ability to attend school, focus on learning, and socializing with their peers.

 

COVID-19 is the greatest vaccine preventable threat to children today, and is much more serious and deadly in children, compared to other common infectious diseases. This extra vulnerability for children poses a significant threat to their future physical and mental well-being.

 

We have been vaccinating children for many years. Vaccines have been around since the early 1800’s and the recommended childhood vaccination schedule has been in use since the 1980’s. This revolutionary technique saved, and is saving countless lives. In MD of Bonnyville, 66.4%, (11020 people) ages 5+ have already been vaccinated against COVID, with  61.5%, (10209 people) ages 5+ being fully vaccinated as of December 22, 2021. Even with the recent news of the approval of the COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 5-11, over 750 children have already received their first dose.

Retrieved from the CDC. Table is detailing other vaccine preventable diseases.

 

Similar to other vaccines, such as the ones listed above, the COVID-19 vaccines are being studied carefully and rigorously, and will continue to be studied for many years to ensure everyone’s safety. As health professionals, we recognize the importance of raising questions during these difficult times. However, it is also essential to be mindful of where information is coming from. Instead of drawing upon misinformed sources, we should all work together on building understanding and promoting truth. Your questions and concerns are valid – let’s get them addressed with access to clear, evidence-based information, with your physician, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers. We all want to go back to normal. We are all in this fight together, and we need you to help.

 

 

 

Physicians of the Bonnyville Health Centre

With support from 19 to Zero: www.19tozero.ca

About 19 to Zero:

19 to Zero is a dedicated coalition of academics, public health experts, behavioural economists, and creative professionals working to understand, engage with, and ultimately shift public perceptions around COVID-19 behaviours and vaccination.

19 to Zero was launched at the University of Calgary in August of 2020. The team leads the implementation of CONVINCE Canada (COVID-19 New Vaccine Information, Communication, and Engagement). The global CONVINCE initiative is the product of a series of global dialogues over the course of the pandemic with City University of New York School of Public Health, the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Wilton Park, an agency of the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office.

About Dear Editor