Evidence suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in teens and do not alter a person's genes.
A video questioning the effectiveness and safety of COVID-19 vaccines in children 16-and 17-year-olds is doing the rounds on Facebook. The video features Dr. Sam Dubé, an anti-vaccine advocate, and three British physicians. Together they repeatedly claim that the risk of COVID-19 vaccines in children outweighs the benefits. Additionally, the video's caption falsely refers to the vaccine as a "gene therapy jab." The claims made by Dubé and the British physicians are misleading, as evidence suggests that vaccines are safe and effective in children.
On August 4, 2021, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) updated their advice and recommended vaccinating all 16 and 17-year-olds with a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Following the change, the internet became rife with medical misinformation, often undermining reports on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines in children. One such video that surfaced on Facebook included Dr. Sam Dubé interviewing three British physicians. The physicians, including Dr. Anthony Hinton and Dr. Tess Lawrie, repeatedly stated that the evidence increasingly shows the risk of vaccines in children outweighs the benefits as children are not at risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19. This statement is misleading. The video is shared on several Facebook pages, including UK Medical Freedom Alliance, a page that promotes anti-vaccine sentiments.
Firstly, Pfizer's clinical trials in teenagers over 16 years showed vaccine safety and demonstrated vaccine efficacy of 95 percent against COVID-19. Additionally, the CDC and JCVI have deemed the vaccination as safe and effective in teens and children.
Secondly, the participants failed to disclose the impact of long COVID on children. Long COVID is a post-COVID, long term condition that can include debilitating symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness, high temperature, cognitive impairment in people. A survey by Office for National Statistics showed that 23,000 children between 12 and 16 years suffered from long COVID, according to the Independent. While speaking to the Independent, Dr Elaine Maxwell, a scientific adviser at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), revealed that long COVID in children was not unexpected and rare. Therefore, even if children do not get often severely ill from COVID-19, they can suffer from long term health complications.
Thirdly, while it is rare, children can contract fatal cases of COVID-19. As of August 4, the CDC reports that 416 children under 18 had died from COVID.
Lastly, the video's caption on Facebook refers to the COVID-19 vaccine as a "gene therapy jab." Webmd debunks this claim and states that the vaccine does not alter a person's genes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.