GOP governors push back as CDC adds COVID vax to immunization schedule despite data on risk to kids

New research finds high post-vaccination hospitalization rate in kids under 5, heart inflammation rates in 12-15 that far exceed their peak COVID hospitalization rate.

Published: October 21, 2022 4:39pm

Updated: October 21, 2022 11:12pm

Following a CDC panel's unanimous vote to add COVID-19 vaccines to the 2023 immunization schedule, several governors — including a centrist Democrat dubbed a potential "answer [to] Democrats' 2024 prayers" — are scrambling to assure their constituents that state requirements aren't changing.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' (ACIP) approval of 3-4 dose COVID shots for adults and children starting at 6 months — a first for vaccines still under emergency use authorization — stands in sharp relief to growing reluctance abroad to jab certain age groups and ongoing research documenting serious adverse events.

The political backlash reflects the general disinclination of American parents to inoculate their preteens against COVID. 

At an infectious disease conference in D.C. that started Wednesday, CDC epidemiologist Ruth Link-Gelles groused that the agency was having trouble measuring vaccine effectiveness in children under 5 "because kids aren't getting vaccinated," which is a "really abysmal ... public health failure," according to notes by CBS reporter Alexander Tin

"There just haven't been a lot of hospitalizations over the last year or year and a half in this age group" and, "more importantly," vaccinated hospitalizations, Link-Gelles said.

One of the dissident scientists at Dr. Anthony Fauci's National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Margery Smelkinson, had a different take. "Anyone saying this won't lead to a mandate hasn't been paying attention," she tweeted after the Thursday vote.

Half an hour after ACIP's vote Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) affirmed his surgeon general's Tuesday promise. "As long as I'm kickin' and screamin', there will be no COVID shot mandates for your kids," he told a press conference. "I get a kick out of it when people kind of compare it to MMR, things that have been around for decades," he said, referring to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

Over the next several hours, a procession of Republican governors — including Tennessee's Bill Lee, Alabama's Kay Ivey, Missouri's Mike Parson, Iowa's Kim Reynolds, Oklahoma's Kevin Stitt, Glenn Youngkin of Virginia and Utah's Spencer Cox — echoed DeSantis' statement, citing the primacy of parental choice and the proactive work of their legislatures. 

Republican governors speaking up Friday include Georgia's Brian Kemp and Arkansas' Asa Hutchinson, who emphasized he encourages Arkansans to get vaccinated but won't require it for schoolchildren or anyone else.

The ACIP vote has quickly become an issue on the campaign trail. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem highlighted her Democratic opponent's support for vaccine mandates Wednesday and her commitment to "fight the federal government" if it tries to enforce COVID vaccination for schoolchildren.

Republican gubernatorial challengers — including Rep. Lee Zeldin in New York, Tudor Dixon in Michigan, Scott Jensen in Minnesota and Heidi Ganahl in Colorado — have emphasized their opposition to COVID vaccine mandates in education.

Colorado voters don't currently have a pro-mandate candidate. A spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Jared Polis told 9News Denver that he backs the state health department's current opposition to requiring COVID vaccines to attend school.

"This is the expected response as Colorado also doesn't require the flu shot for school kids, the state has a low-bar for non-medical exemptions, and Polis has opposed back-to-school vaccine mandates for teachers and staff," 9News host Kyle Clark tweeted.

The U.S. is increasingly an international outlier in promoting or even allowing COVID vaccination of children (absent special circumstances) and downplaying serious adverse events.

Denmark has stopped offering the shots under age 18 and Sweden under age 11, while Finland, Iceland and Norway don't recommend them for 5-11 year-olds, according to Danish-American epidemiologist Tracy Beth Hoeg. Last month, the U.K. suggested it was phasing out 5-11 vaccination, given the age group's low risk from COVID and high natural immunity.

Moderna's clinical trial for children 6 months to 5 years, limited data from which was given to the CDC earlier this year, showed a serious adverse event rate of roughly 1 in 200, including one recipient who suffered "fever and febrile seizure." The SAE rate for placebo recipients was roughly 1 in 530.

The drugmaker published the full results of that trial in the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday. Former New York Times drug industry reporter Alex Berenson found an alarming SAE buried deep in the appendix: "new-onset Type 1 diabetes mellitus and diabetic ketoacidosis in a 1-year-old female reported 37 days post dose 2."

New research is finding COVID vaccine risks in other unexpected populations. In Germany, where the shots aren't authorized for children under 5 but are allowed on an "off-label" basis with the informed consent of parents, researchers surveyed those families.

Among the 7,806 children under 5 in the responses, 10 who received the two-dose Pfizer shot were hospitalized, according to the study published in a Journal of the American Medical Association publication

The researchers compared the results with symptoms in the same group of children during the same time period following on-label, non-COVID vaccinations. Unlike the COVID jabs, the latter caused no symptoms that lasted longer than 3 months or required inpatient treatment. COVID vaccines were about 60% more likely to cause symptoms of any severity.

That 1-in-780 risk of hospitalization is several times higher than estimated post-vaccination heart inflammation rates in young men from ongoing studies. 

A Wednesday update to a New England Journal of Medicine study of post-Pfizer myocarditis in Israel, looking at 12-15 year-olds specifically, found a rate of nearly 9 per 100,000 vaccinations in males, about twice the myocarditis rate when females were included. Median hospital stay was 3 days.

In an essay cross-posted to the Sensible Medicine newsletter, Mount Sinai medical student David Allely noted the peak COVID hospitalization rate for this age group was 2.1 per 100,000, according to CDC figures.

"These data covered today suggest that we may have inflicted a greater number of hospitalizations on young boys by vaccinating them," he wrote.

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