Megyn Kelly’s Anti-vax Lies Are a Threat to Public Health

Megyn Kelly’s Anti-vax Lies Are a Threat to Public Health

Megyn Kelly is a widely-admired journalist, celebrity, and influencer. It is her responsibility to be truthful and humble about her medical ignorance.

And yet, on Wednesday she tweeted something egregiously wrong about COVID-19 vaccines:

COVID-19 vaccinations are, in fact, modern medical miracles. While they aren’t dangerous, Megyn stated that vaccinationsCOVID-[********************************************************************************************************************************************************] vaccines are modern medical miracles.

And she’s not alone. Also this week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson went even further, saying the CDC is “making the vax mandatory for kids to attend school.”

Both of these people are trying to scare parents into rejecting vaccines that could save their lives. They have also seriously damaged public trust in science, public health and medicine. That is truly dangerous.

When it comes to something as important and vital, like the well-being and health of our children’s kids, it is essential that we know all the facts.

What do we know? Yesterday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (independent scientific advisors to the CDC) voted unanimously to include COVID-19 vaccines in the Vaccines for Children program. Right now, COVID-19 vaccines are free, but the Biden administration is planning to transition the vaccination program to the commercial market as soon as 2023, which means we’ll all have to start paying for shots. For most people covered by private insurance or Medicare, this won’t be a problem. But by adding COVID-19 shots, the Vaccines for Children program will be able to provide them to kids under age 19 whose families cannot afford them.

This week’s goal was to ensure that vaccines are free for children under age 18 who have no insurance or cannot afford them. Who would be opposed to that?

Contrary to many false reports on social media, ACIP and CDC have not yet decided whether COVID-19 vaccines should be added to recommended childhood immunization schedules. That might happen one day so that COVID-19 vaccines protect all our children, just as vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella do. The CDC does not have the power to make vaccination a requirement for school admission. This is a solely state responsibility according to the Constitution. Conservatives are asking for it.

Now for the scientific facts.

COVID-19 vaccination is the single best strategy to protect children from severe disease. Studies show them to be enormously successful in protecting children from hospitalization and death, including the most recent Omicron subvariants. SARS-CoV-2 can cause severe illness in children of all ages, and disease is more severe among children with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, obesity, diabetes, and sickle cell disease–that’s a large swath of American children.

And here’s some sobering facts for conservative pundits to consider: Between August 2020 and October 2022, there were 162,160 children between the ages of zero and 17 hospitalized with COVID-19. That includes 1,228 reported deaths. COVID-19 can cause severe damage to a child’s lungs, heart, kidney, GI tract, nervous system, and blood. A small percentage of children can develop complications, even after a mild case of COVID-19, known as MIS-C (multi-system inflammatory condition in children), often manifested by a failure of several vital organs, including the heart. As of October 2022, 9,006 children were diagnosed with MIS-C and 74 died. And then there is “long COVID” among kids, with persistent symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, headache, sleep disturbance, muscle and joint pain, and problems breathing.

“Put simply: Vaccine benefits continue to greatly outweigh any risk associated with vaccination.”

Compared with getting COVID-19, vaccines are very safe, and are continually monitored using sophisticated surveillance and statistical methods.

One serious adverse event following COVID-19 vaccination is a risk of myocarditis/pericarditis–which is the primary risk conservative pundits have pointed to as their evidence that the vaccines are unsafe.

But this risk is rare, and primarily observed in adolescent and young adult males within the first week after receiving the second dose or booster dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Moreover, most of these children fully recover. And what is most important is that the risk of adverse heart outcomes is 1.8-5. 6 times higher after SARS-CoV-2 infection than after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination among males ages 12-17 years. Simply put: The vaccine benefits outweigh the risks associated with vaccination.

When Megyn Kelly says that CDC isn’t an “honest broker” or Tucker Carlson says that the agency is forcing children to be vaccinated against their parent’s will, that is deeply damaging to public health. And it’s somewhat galling when media personalities–including those claiming to be curious journalists–attack the integrity of women and men who have devoted their careers to science and the common good–and especially when these celebrities get their facts so horribly wrong.

It isn’t just about COVID-19 vaccines or other childhood vaccines like measles. This is the constant drip-drip effect of disinformation and fear tactics. And when that affects the public’s core beliefs in medicine and science, America has a major problem.

So, when we hear celebrities (who we may admire) on television try to scare us about vaccines, remember they have no medical knowledge, and what they say can be very dangerous to you and to your family.

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