Right before the Halloween weekend, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, enabling about 28 million kids across the country to get it, if they or their parents wish to. Before kids can get inoculated, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must sign off after a scheduled advisory committee meeting, during which the group will review the pediatric doses before clearing it for public distribution.
Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement that "Vaccinating younger children against COVID-19 will bring us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy," CNBC reported. The kids' COVID shots will be a low-dose vaccine for kids or a third of a dosage given to adults. The Biden administration has already procured doses for up to 28 million kids across the U.S. and is eager to roll out pediatric vaccination for up to 15 million kids as soon as it is approved.
At least one prominent doctor, however, is opposed to this decision.
Former director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children's Center Dr. Ben Carson recently expressed his opposition to vaccinating children against COVID. Dr. Carson, who was also the Trump administration's Housing and Urban Development Secretary, called vaccinating children against COVID a "giant experiment."
In a recent appearance at Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures," Dr. Carson was asked by host Maria Bartiromo if he thinks children should be inoculated against COVID. He replied, "Absolutely not."
"The fact of the matter is, the mortality rate for children from COVID-19 is 0.025, which is very similar to the rate for seasonal flu," Dr. Carson reasoned, as reported by The Blaze. "And we haven't been for years and years going through all these things for seasonal flu."
Dr. Carson argued that the long-term implications of the pediatric COVID vaccines are currently unknown, which should spark red flags for parents. He said, "We don't know what the long-term impact of these vaccines is, so this is really sort of a giant experiment."
It's worth noting that a Harvard professor of immunology who also serves as a voting member of the FDA advisory committee, Dr. Eric Ruben, indicated that the push to get kids vaccinated is like running an experiment to see what potential effects will have on children.
"We're never gonna learn about how safe the vaccine is until we start giving it," Dr. Ruben said.
Dr. Carson cast doubt on the efficacy of the vaccines for children, asking rhetorically if parents wanted to "put our children at risk, when we know that the risk of the disease to them is relatively small" especially when "we don't know what the future risks are."
Part of the "giant experiment" that Dr. Carson is referring to was the FDA's study on just 3,100 children aged 5 to 11, who received a lower, 10mcg dose of the vaccine. The FDA said that "no serious side effects have been detected in the ongoing study." The agency added, "Side effects were generally mild to moderate in severity and occurred within two days after vaccination, and most went away within one to two days."
Some critics worry that a sample size of 3,100 is just not enough to represent over 24 million children across America aged 5 to 11. TIME reported that an October poll showed how only 27% of parents who have children aged 5 to 11 intend to have their children vaccinated against COVID right away. The same poll showed that 30% said they will "definitely not" have their kids vaccinated.