As the White House anticipates approval of the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) application for COVID vaccines for babies and young children, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor of health policy at Stanford University and a founding fellow at the Academy for Science and Freedom, says the claim that COVID is “a far greater threat to kids than the flu is” amounts to “scare-mongering.”
Bhattacharya responded in a column at the Wall Street Journal Sunday to White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha’s recent tweet in which he made the claim “COVID is a far greater threat to kids than the flu is.”
The Stanford health policy professor asserted the study Jha cited and praised as supporting his claim is actually “flawed.”
Great figure by @jeremyfaust says it all
COVID is a far greater threat to kids than flu is
And you know what dramatically lowers risk and keeps kids out of the hospital?
If your kid 5 or older isn't vaccinated, its time
Full article: https://t.co/r2gNeXkNx0 pic.twitter.com/7goa03DYVE
— Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH (@AshishKJha46) May 31, 2022
Jha, Bhattacharya noted, “linked to an article by Harvard Medical School instructor Jeremy Faust, which claims that Covid killed more than 600 children in 2021, whereas the flu kills ‘an average’ of only 120 children annually.”
Bhattacharya cited three reasons why Faust’s data are “severely skewed.”
First, people admitted to a hospital for any reason rarely receive a flu test, whereas almost everyone now receives a COVID test.
“Between October 2018 and September 2019, 1.4 million flu tests were reported to public-health and clinical labs,” he observed. “As of May 31, 2022, there had been 897 million PCR tests for Covid.”
Second, Bhattacharya turned to the issue of the meaning of “COVID deaths”:
[E]vidence from audits of death certificates found that 35% of all pediatric deaths in 2020 “had co-occurring diagnosis codes that could not be plausibly categorized as either a chain-of-event or significant contributing condition,” according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Put another way, in at least 35% of pediatric “Covid deaths,” Covid couldn’t have been the cause.
Third, Bhattacharya pointed out “Faust relies on a figure for confirmed flu deaths that is well known to underestimate actual flu deaths by an order of magnitude.”
“Correcting for the lack of flu testing, the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases estimated 1,261 pediatric flu deaths in the 2012-13 season rather than the 142 that Dr. Faust reported.”
Bhattacharya said the White House’s “false message” that COVID is a high risk for children “undermines public health and erodes public confidence.”
“It foments an erroneous assessment of risk and is the kind of misinformation that leads to more school closings as well as burdensome mask and quarantine mandates,” he asserted.
Citing Bhattacharya’s response to Jha was Kyle Lamb, a member of Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis’ communications team, who tweeted the Stanford professor “hits back on the disinformation that the disease is worse for children than flu.”
White House Keeps Stoking COVID Fears. @DrJBhattacharya hits back on the disinformation that the disease is worse for children than flu.
In Florida, we recognized that fact early and kept schools open. This messaging could have terrible repercussions.https://t.co/Ia4Em8UBep
— Kyle Lamb (@kylamb8) June 5, 2022
Jha’s apparently erroneous claim channels one made by White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, who, back in September, said more children have died from COVID than have ever died from the flu.
This is not surprising, since, back in August 2020, Jha referred to Fauci as a “personal role model.”
“One of the things I really admired about (Fauci) is his ability to communicate effectively to people,” Jha told Brown University’s Brown Daily Herald. “He doesn’t dumb things down.”
“I think it’s really important that public health leaders speak up at a moment like this, especially when there’s so much misinformation out there … it’s particularly important to have credible scientific forces,” Jha added at the time.
Lamb also responded to Fauci’s claim in detail at that time:
COVID-19 deaths are capturing almost every COVID-induced illness in the past year because every kid is being tested that goes into a hospital, and it's overcounting because any kid that dies with a positive test is a multiple cause COVID death.
— Kyle Lamb (@kylamb8) September 18, 2021
Jha is attempting to get American parents enthused about having their babies and toddlers vaccinated against a disease to which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) itself states about 75 percent of children and adolescents have already been exposed.
Last August, Dr. Marty Makary, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine professor and editor-in-chief of MedPage Today, noted another falsehood in an interview with U.S. News & World Reports:
The notion that we have to vaccinate every living, walking American – and eventually every newborn – in order to control the pandemic is based on the false assumption that the risk of dying from COVID-19 is equally distributed in the population. It’s not. We have always known that it’s very hard for the virus to hurt someone who is young and healthy.
Makary noted as well those with “natural immunity – that is, immunity from prior COVID infection” is “effective and going strong.”
“And that’s because with natural immunity, the body develops antibodies to the entire surface of the virus, not just a spike protein constructed from a vaccine,” Makary explained. “The power of natural immunity was recently affirmed in an Israeli study, which found a 6.7 times greater level of protection among those with natural immunity vs. those with vaccinated immunity.”
Makary added the case for vaccinating healthy kids is “not strong.”
“The COVID-19 death risk is clustered among kids with a co-morbid condition, like obesity,” he explained. “Of the more than 330 COVID-19 deaths in kids under age 25, there’s good preliminary data suggesting that most or nearly all appear to be in kids with a pre-existing condition.”
Letter to FDA from US Congress/Senate on rationale since so many children have already had the infection and its too late from them to take one of the products. Why take the risk without any assurances of long term safety? 19 questions, 18 signatures. Lets hear some answers! pic.twitter.com/wyXXC0uQvY
— Peter McCullough, MD MPH (@P_McCulloughMD) June 8, 2022
World-renowned cardiologist and co-author with John Leake of The Courage to Face COVID-19, Dr. Peter McCullough praised members of Congress for insisting the FDA respond to numerous questions about the risks vs. the benefits of the COVID vaccines for young children.
“Why take the risk without any assurances of long term safety?” McCullough asks.
TAKE ACTION: Tell the FDA There’s No COVID Emergency in Babies + Children!
WE MUST STOP the approval of this EUA that will subject our most vulnerable young children to the unnecessary risks of COVID 💉💉💉
Tell the FDA #HandsOffOurChildren
🔗 https://t.co/oLg2uih2zI pic.twitter.com/7mJctwsm8n
— Children's Health Defense (@ChildrensHD) June 7, 2022
Also in response to the anticipated approval of the Emergency Use Authorization application for COVID vaccines for infants and the youngest children, Children’s Health Defense asks, “What’s the emergency?”
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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].