The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proven once again how tone-deaf it is. The CDC’s independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted 15–0 last week to add most Covid-19 vaccines offered in the U.S. to the childhood, adolescent, and adult immunization schedules. The schedules reflect a summary of existing ACIP recommendations. While they carry no legal weight, they are highly influential, especially for states and localities formulating school-entry vaccination requirements. And that is problematic.
The FDA has only approved through its normal, rigorous procedures two mRNA Covid vaccines: the Pfizer-BioNTech primary series vaccine for people twelve and older and the Moderna primary series vaccine for people 18 and older. The other two available vaccines — Johnson & Johnson’s viral-vector vaccine and Novavax’s protein-subunit vaccine — as well as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for younger age groups, are only authorized for emergency use. This is a different and less rigorous process than full FDA approval.
Unlike the other recommended childhood vaccines which interfere with and prevent infection, the Covid vaccines have limited effectiveness in preventing disease transmission. Their primary benefit is in reducing the severity of Covid once you catch it. But Covid is a relatively benign disease for healthy young people. Outside of people who are immune-suppressed or have underlying medical problems, the risk of death from Covid for young people is negligible.
Moreover, the safety profile for the vaccines in young people is not yet fully known. Authorization of the original vaccines for younger age groups is only a few months old. And trials for the new bivalent vaccines — recently authorized for children as young as five years old — have not yet been completed.
The FDA acknowledged that it approved the bivalent vaccines for younger age groups based on “immune response and safety data that it had previously evaluated from a clinical study in adults of a booster dose of a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine” that contained a different Omicron subtype (BA.1) than the subtypes (BA.4 and BA.5) in the authorized vaccines. While the FDA “considers such data as relevant and supportive of vaccines” that contain the newer Omicron variants, the FDA and the CDC should have waited a few extra months for safety data before authorizing bivalent vaccines for kids and adding them to the immunization schedules. That would have helped to reassure parents who already harbor doubts about vaccinating their children.
It is no surprise that in this uncertain environment, 21 states have banned Covid-19 vaccination mandates for students. The District of Columbia has approved a mandate that, starting in January, will exclude non-compliant students but only in the age groups for which the Covid vaccine has received full FDA approval. California is considering a similar mandate that could go into effect by July 2023.
Read the full article at National Review.