A Newsweek cover seeking to illustrate the concerns that some American parents have expressed about their children being vaccinated against COVID-19 has met with sharp criticism from health experts and nonexperts alike.
Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccinologist and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, tweeted his frustration at the image, and complained that he already spends half his day “doing damage control.”
The cover story comes as parents await a Food and Drug Administration announcement on vaccines for children aged 5 to 11, after an advisory committee earlier this week voted that the benefits outweigh the risks.
If the FDA agrees with that vote, the matter with pass to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is due to meet next week to make a final decision on how a rollout will be managed.
There are more than 25 million children in the U.S. between the ages of 5 and 11, many of whom are back in classrooms and relying on other mitigation measures like masks and distancing to avoid getting sick.
“We can’t forever have mitigation, particularly in schools,” said Dr. Hayley Gans, a pediatrician at Stanford University Medical Center and one of the committee’s acting chairs, speaking earlier this week. “Children need the more open life, as we all do.”
About 6.3 million children have had COVID-19 during the course of the pandemic, making up about 16% of all cases in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. About 118,000 new cases were diagnosed during the week through Oct. 21, marking a seventh weekly decline from a peak of nearly 252,000 added the week of Sept. 2, when the highly transmissible delta variant was still taking a major toll. Over a million child cases were added in the previous six weeks, the academy said.
In the 5-to-11 age group, about 1.9 million children have been infected to date, more than 8,300 have been hospitalized and 94 have died. That puts COVID in the top 10 causes of death for that group, said the AAP.
Experts are concerned that the vaccine hesitancy that has hurt the overall U.S. program will be repeated with children and further prolong the crisis.
The CDC’s vaccine tracker remains stubbornly static at 191 million people, or 57.6% of the overall population, still well below the 70% experts say is needed to stop the spread.
CDC data show more people are getting booster shots every day than primary shots. So far, 15.4 million people have had a booster.