On the menu today: The COVID-19 vaccine for kids could be available “in the next couple of weeks,” which should spur America’s public schools to start thinking about how to wind down their masking policies; Tom Friedman belatedly discovers that Xi Jinping may not have the best of intentions; and CNN does a terrific job on a story that isn’t getting enough attention . . . but doesn’t necessarily put it in the spotlight.
The Kids’ Vaccines Are Coming, Which Means Schools Should Rethink Masking Policies
Back in mid July, an unidentified FDA official predicted that a COVID-19 vaccine would be available for children ages five to eleven sometime in “early to midwinter.” Yesterday, Jeff Zients, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said the administration expects the FDA and CDC to decide on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five through eleven “in the next couple of weeks.”
Zients emphasized that, “We have secured vaccine supply to vaccinate every child ages 5 through 11. And as soon as the vaccine is authorized by the FDA, we will begin shipping millions of doses nationwide.” (Some people may conclude that with the federal government having already purchased vaccines for 50 million American children, the FDA review is merely a formality.)
He said that the federal government had “already enrolled more than 25,000 pediatricians, family doctors, and other primary-care providers to administer vaccines,” and in addition, there are plans to “work with state and local education leaders to bring vaccination clinics directly to schools, including by matching pharmacies and other vaccine providers with school districts to set up on-site clinics.”
The children’s version of the Pfizer vaccine has already been through three rounds of testing involving up to 4,500 children. Like the adult version, the vaccine will require two doses, administered at least three weeks apart.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination for your child is safe — as usual, if you know your child is allergic to any of the ingredients, that’s a different story — but don’t take it from me; if you have questions, ask your doctor or your child’s pediatrician. But let’s also keep open eyes about the relatively small risk that SARS-CoV-2 poses to children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has dutifully collected, analyzed, and updated all of the publicly available case data on cases of COVID-19 in children. As of October 14, nearly 6.2 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. In the past week about 131,000 child COVID cases were added, the sixth consecutive weekly decrease from the pandemic peak of nearly 252,000 child cases which were added the week of September 2. Since the pandemic began, children have represented 16.4 percent of total cumulated cases. The AAP concludes that, “At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children.”
While it is not unheard of for COVID-19 to put a child into the hospital, it is thankfully rare, per the AAP: “Among states reporting, children ranged from 1.6 percent to 4.2 percent of their total cumulated hospitalizations, and 0.1 percent to 2 percent of all their child COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization.” It is exceptionally rare for a COVID-19 infection to result in a child’s death: “Among states reporting, children were 0.00%-0.25% of all COVID-19 deaths, and 7 states reported zero child deaths. In states reporting, zero percent to 0.03 percent of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in death.”
In light of the children’s COVID vaccine arriving soon, and the exceptionally small risk that COVID-19 represents for children, it is time for public schools to think long and hard about their current masking policies. If a school district is going to require students who are vaccinated to wear masks — surrounded by teachers and other adults who are currently required to be vaccinated — it is fair to ask: What is the point? What is the danger in groups of vaccinated individuals getting together? What threshold needs to be reached for school administrators to conclude it is safe for groups of vaccinated individuals to take off their masks around each other? A few weekends ago, I went to MetLife Stadium with 70,231 other people, very few of whom wore masks, for several hours. It wasn’t a super-spreader event. Life went on. Why is it safe for people to go to sporting events and not wear masks but kindergarteners still need to be masked all day long?
Back in August Joseph G. Allen and Helen Jenkins wrote a good op-ed in the New York Times observing that, “Any organization setting a mask mandate at this point in the pandemic in the United States must pair that mandate with an offramp plan. Sleepwalking into indefinite masking is not in anyone’s interests and can increase distrust after an already very difficult year.”
Unfortunately, CDC director Rochelle Walensky — who has had more than her share of challenges communicating clearly with the public — apparently believes that fully vaccinated kids should keep wearing masks indefinitely.
“As we head into these winter months, we know we cannot be complacent,” Walensky said at the White House yesterday. “We also know that, from previous data, that schools that have had masks in place were three and a half times less likely to have school outbreaks requiring school closure. So, right now, we are going to continue to recommend masks in all schools for all people in those schools. And we will look forward to scaling up pediatric vaccination during this period of time.”
In other words once a child is vaccinated, nothing changes. As Mary Katharine Ham summarized, “You’re vaccinating them for an illness that doesn’t really affect them, in order to . . . vaccinate them for an illness that doesn’t really affect them.”
By the way, this is one of those situations where I am in disagreement with my sons, who are actually wearing their masks all day in accordance with the requirements of Fairfax County Public Schools. Both are fairly nonchalant about wearing mask in school; they’ve been wearing them in school since March and have long since gotten used to them. When I asked them if they wanted to stop doing so, they both responded, “Whatever,” which is a signal that one is a teenager and the other is knocking on the door of those years, and they’ve both been raised by parents from Generation X.
Tom Friedman Discovers Beijing May Not Have Good Intentions
Tom Friedman wrote on September 8, 2009, that, “One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages.”
Tom Friedman, appearing on Meet the Press in 2010, said that, “I have fantasized — don’t get me wrong — but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions.”
Tom Friedman, this week, said:
President Xi Jinping has reversed steps [from Deng Xiaoping’s direction] in ways that could pose a real danger to China’s future development and a real danger to the rest of the world. Everything Xi is doing today is eroding trust among Chinese and foreign entrepreneurs about what the rules of business are now inside China, while at the same time eroding trust abroad that China — having swallowed Hong Kong — won’t soon move on Taiwan, which could trigger a direct conflict with the U.S.
Oh, now Tom Friedman is worried about China? Mr. “I wish we could be like China for a day” now sees the CCP as a threat? As a wise philosopher said in 1988, “Welcome to the party, pal!”
For Afghan Evacuations, ‘Little Or No Official Help from the US Government’
CNN, with the sort of story that should be front and center at the top of the page, and dominating the questions to Jen Psaki at the White House press briefings:
Two months after the final US military plane left Kabul, some of those same people are still working tirelessly to extract family members of US service personnel stuck in Afghanistan — all with what sources say is little or no official help from the US government.
Interviews with active-duty service members, former military officers and current lawmakers working on this issue reveal a deep level of frustration over the lack of formal government assistance. Lawmakers say they are in the dark about the best official avenue to help constituents who call asking for help. And military personnel with family stuck in Afghanistan say they’ve been left to figure things out for themselves.
The media haven’t completely forgotten or ignored the American citizens, green-card holders, and Afghan allies who are still trapped in Taliban territory. They just haven’t made the story a priority, a steady drumbeat of top stories — the kind of total domination of the news cycle for weeks like we saw with, say, the Abu Gharib prison-abuse scandal. Apparently, it’s just not as consequential or important as Netflix employees who are upset about Dave Chappelle or Trump attempting to form his own social-media company.
The top story on CNN’s website this morning is, “Bannon case and stalled voting rights bill show how GOP has given up on democracy.”
ADDENDUM: Today I am off to Dallas, Texas, for the National Review Institute’s annual William F. Buckley Prize dinner. If you’ll be attending, I hope to see you there. If you won’t be attending, maybe think about attending the next one in 2022!