In the year since vaccines first arrived for the coronavirus, a major bit of controversy has involved the idea of children being vaccinated. Some parents, even many who are themselves vaccinated, are uneasy about allowing their children to receive the jab.
Now, as the Omicron variant continues to tear through the U.S. population, a new CDC report says vaccinations for children have very, very rarely been associated with negative outcomes.
“After authorization of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5–11 years during October 2021, and administration of approximately 8 million doses, local and systemic reactions after vaccination were commonly reported to VAERS and v-safe for vaccinated children aged 5–11 years. Serious adverse events were rarely reported,” the CDC report said.
According to an NBC New York report about the announcement, the analysis found only 100 “serious” reports, out of the 8.7 million doses administrated to children in the last two months, for a percentage of 0.0011%.
The report found a total of two deaths, both of whom had underlying conditions; CDC found no link between the shots and their deaths. There were only nine reports of hospitalization in children.
In other positive news about shots, a pair of reports Thursday showed that those who have received two shots of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the original shot, and the booster, are “well protected against severe disease and hospitalization from the Omicron variant of coronavirus,” CNN reported. One of the studies was from South Africa and showed that the vaccine was effective against the Omicron variant.
“Data from the Sisonke 2 study confirm that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster shot provides 85 percent effectiveness against hospitalization in areas where Omicron is dominant,” Mathai Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., Global Head, Janssen Research & Development, LLC, Johnson & Johnson, said in a company press release. “This adds to our growing body of evidence which shows that the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine remains strong and stable over time, including against circulating variants such as Omicron and Delta.”
A Promising Antibodies Study
Also this week, an international group of scientists at the University of Washington announced that they have “identified antibodies that neutralize omicron and other SARS-CoV-2 variants.” This could lead to the development of new vaccines, the university said.
“This finding tells us that by focusing on antibodies that target these highly conserved sites on the spike protein, there is a way to overcome the virus’ continual evolution,” David Veesler, an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and associate professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, said in the release.
Meanwhile, as Omicron spreads in the United States, large numbers of airline flights continue to be canceled. Per the Wall Street Journal, citing FlightAware, airlines canceled 1,300 flights in the United States as of late Thursday. Many of the cancellations were due to staffers and crew members affected by COVID-19.
Back to School
The other big question, expected to arise next week, is what will happen with the nation’s schools. Most are scheduled to return from winter break after the new year, but the continuing Omicron wave has raised questions about whether that can go ahead, especially since there have been reports of more children being hospitalized than was the case during earlier phases of the pandemic.
Most schools in Texas will resume in-person instruction in January, the Texas Tribune said. In New York City, where Omicron is surging especially and child hospitalizations are rising as well, in-person school will resume next week. However, according to NBC New York, the city’s public schools will double their weekly PCR testing, while distributing tests to students when a classmate tests positive.
"This guarantees more consistency in their education. It guarantees fewer disruptions,” Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is in his final days in office, said at a press conference this week. “And it works because here's the fact we now know: 98% of close contacts don't turn into positive cases themselves," de Blasio said. "We have a lot of evidence now that tells us this is going to be the approach that works in the future.”
Good News From South Africa
And finally, there is good news from South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first reported just over a month ago. A new preprint study, as published in Science Direct, found that South Africa may have passed its peak of cases- without any jump in hospitalization or death. The study only looks at one particular hospital system, and it is not yet peer-reviewed. But it offers promising news about the direction the variant could take.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.