Do parents of small children need to make them wear masks? Do they need to get them vaccinated? These are important questions many parents face today.
To be sure, the government has been guilty of mixed messaging. Healthcare officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Rochelle Walensky have been all over the map with their advice and it certainly looks like their messaging has been influenced more by politics than science.
As of now, masks are still required for small children over the age of two on airlines, public transportation systems, airports, some schools, and even summer camps. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Ashley McGuire, mother and writer, complains about her nine-year-old daughter who was forced to wear a mask in 98-degree heat while playing tennis at a summer camp run by the prestigious Sidwell Friends School of Washington, D.C., formerly attended by President Obama’s children. Her daughter nearly passed out. This is insanity!
The latest CDC guidelines call for schools to be open in the fall, but still insist children who are not vaccinated wear masks. Since vaccines are not authorized for children under the age of 12 years, that means all younger children still must wear masks. Is this really necessary?
The risks for children getting Covid-19 are very low. New information tells us they are even lower than previously concluded. Denise Roland, writing in The Wall Street Journal, reports on the latest data. Some 99.995% of the 469,982 children in England who were infected during the year and were examined by researchers survived, one study found. Among the 61 child deaths linked to a positive Covid-19 test in England, 25 were actually caused by the illness, the study found. We don’t know if they had other co-morbidities.
This study is an important addition to the data used to make healthcare policy. “Having a larger and larger database . . . adds a lot to our ability to make important decisions,” said Rick Malley, an infectious disease specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
There is some risk with any vaccine. The current Covid-19 vaccines have shown remarkable efficacy and safety, but there are exceptions. There have been some reports of inflammatory conditions of the heart in some adolescents. This has caused some concern with parents of children of all ages. Advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have urged vaccination, saying the benefits outweigh the risks.
The Biden administration is currently advocating door-to-door promotion of the vaccines to get reluctant Americans to accept vaccination. It remains to be seen if they will do the same thing for children if vaccines are approved for them.
The real question at this point in the pandemic is “What role should the government be playing in the decision-making of adults and parents of children?” By now every adult who wants to get vaccinated has had ample opportunity to do so. Any continued hesitancy is a matter of personal choice, and in some cases, doctor’s advice. While I am a strong advocate for vaccination of those who are most vulnerable – especially the elderly and those with co-morbidities such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and obesity – I also believe everyone has the right to make their own decision.
Just as the CDC mentioned above, the decision to get vaccinated is a risk-benefits decision. For those whose risk is high, the benefits are great and they should get vaccinated. For those whose risk is low, like the young – especially very young, the benefits may be too little to justify the risks of the vaccines. The same is true for wearing masks. Small children wearing masks certainly does not make sense in any reasonable risk-benefits analysis. The harmful effects of reduced oxygen and increased carbon dioxide levels surely outweigh any benefits of wearing masks to prevent Covid-19 infection. It’s time to let people make their own decisions. It’s time to let science, not politics, influence those decisions.