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Friday, January 21, 2022
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Editor’s note: This letter was submitted by a local physician who believed there would be professionally and personally damaging repercussions if a name was attached.

I’ve been reading the back and forth in the letters section of The Jewish Link regarding children getting the vaccine. I’m glad parents who want to vaccinate their children have that option. But why is there such a need to force children to vaccinate? While there is no mandate yet (and we all know it’s coming), we force children to mask, to undergo additional testing and/or subject them to additional quarantines, just because they are unvaccinated.

As time has gone on, it has become more evident that the vaccine has minimal effect on the spread of the virus, if any. It does seem to have a benefit with regards to hospitalization and death, but for the spread of COVID it’s been a big failure. In an increasing number of countries, after the vast majority of adults have been vaccinated, there are higher spikes of cases compared to before the vaccine. This is happening right now in Germany and Austria; it happened in Israel a few months ago; and it’s happening here in the U.S. in multiple states. Vermont has more cases than ever now, as does Michigan.

While the unvaccinated are always blamed, it escapes logic to say that going from 0% to 60% vaccination rate has led to an increase in cases, but if we would only get to 70% or 80% then it would suddenly drop. In the U.K., the national data available online has been consistently showing for a few months now that the rate of COVID in vaccinated adults is significantly higher than in the unvaccinated. Again, the vaccine does show a benefit there in terms of hospitalizations and death, but in terms of stopping COVID cases it’s a total failure. Despite knowing all this, we continue to push the vaccines on our children, in the unrealistic hope that it will curtail the spread.

Sadly, the brunt of our response to COVID has always been borne by the children. For most adults in the community, COVID has become something akin to a minor inconvenience now. We go to shul normally, go to normal simchas, and do most of our activities unmasked with essentially no restrictions. Yet our children sit masked all day. If there is a case of COVID in shul or at work, everybody goes about their business as usual. No quarantine for us—we’re vaccinated!

Despite seeing all around us that vaccinated people are getting COVID, we can continue to pretend we’re all immune. No need to even test, and definitely no need to stay home. Not so for the kids. If there’s a COVID case in school, quarantine for all! If an adult has the sniffles, they bring tissues with them. Even if they stay home for a day, they’re back to their normal routine if they feel better the next day. If a child has the sniffles, they’re sent home from school and not let back in until they get tested for COVID.

What’s worse is that lately it seems that the schools have become even more aggressive in their enforcement of testing and quarantining. It’s as if the adults in charge are slowly coming to the realization that their vaccines are not as protective as they once thought, and the panic is setting in. Desperate for some sense of control, they have pinned their hopes on the children getting this same, not-fully-protective vaccine. And in order to push the parents to vaccinate, they need to ratchet up the pressure on them. The overwhelming majority of parents I speak to are vaccinating their young children solely to avoid the need to test and quarantine. They’re not worried about COVID itself, they are just trying to avoid the COVID policies set by the schools.

These are new vaccines, and the degree of side effects is not fully known yet. We know there is a measurable incidence of myocarditis, particularly in young males. More concerning to me is how dug-in the medical community is on this vaccine. Even if there were cases of adverse effects, it would take years before they’d come to light. It’s not as if this never happens—in fact it’s common that new drugs will have adverse effects identified later. Thalidomide was on the market for four years before they pulled it—10,000 birth defects later.

I don’t want to imply that nobody should take the vaccine. But as with any medical treatment, we always need to weigh the risks versus the benefits. What are the benefits of the vaccine in children? If it doesn’t prevent kids from getting COVID or spreading it, and children are at exceedingly low risk of severe COVID anyway, then what exactly is the benefit? Even if the risks of the vaccine are still small, what is the reason to take any risk if the benefit is even smaller? Parents shouldn’t be making medical decisions for their children just to avoid the punitive measures put in place by society.

And what is the plan for the future? Despite the pressure, many parents remain uneasy about vaccinating their young children. How will the schools deal with a situation where only part of the class is vaccinated? Will they force the remaining kids to mask while the others go unmasked? Will they force these children to eat alone, segregated away from their friends? Will an exposure in a class lead to testing only for some children, despite knowing that all of them could still be carrying the virus? I’m concerned that these measures will continue—or even worsen—in a misguided attempt to force the hands of the “recalcitrant” parents.

We are lucky that the vaccines have led to a decrease in hospitalizations and death. But they will not stop the spread of positive PCR tests. Not in adults, and not in children. It is time to move past these disruptive and ineffective mitigation measures in the schools. Some things like masking are mandated by the state and we can’t change that—though we certainly have control over the stringency of enforcement. But in any case, the constant testing and quarantining needs to end. If kids are sick they should stay home. (And by sick, I mean fever. Not runny noses or winter coughs.) But otherwise, school should return to normal just as the rest of society has.

Many people who share this view are afraid to speak out. They don’t want to be labeled anti-vaxxers, or be accused of believing that COVID is a hoax, or be told that they don’t care if people die. People say that if it will save one life, any measure is worth it. Of course nobody wants anyone to die unnecessarily, but is that really the standard for decision-making?

For any intervention in society there is always a cost-benefit analysis. We do not ban driving, despite knowing that tens of thousands of Americans will die in car accidents every year. As a society, we’ve decided that the cost of not driving is not worth the benefit of saving all those lives. As cruel as that sounds, we are all making that cost-benefit analysis every time we get in a car, whether we realize it or not. For many of us, we make the same analysis about the ongoing testing and quarantining of our asymptomatic children: The cost is not worth the benefit. Vaccines and boosters are widely available for anybody who wants them, and using the threat of quarantine to force additional children to vaccinate is not going to significantly alter the course of this pandemic.

I hope that the schools and our greater society will read this letter and recognize that the loud voices of the complainers do not represent all of the parents. For many of us, we are thankful to have reached a point where better treatment and vaccines are available to all who need or want them. It’s now time to provide stability and normalcy for our children, and to stop punishing them by continuing to force unnecessary measures on them.

Name Withheld on Request
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