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week of June 23, 2022

Pediatric ICU admission prevention

The claim:

With pediatric COVID vaccines being approved for under 5s by FDA and recommended by ACIP, we knew that the scary stories and data warping would be coming. Some anti-vaccine doctors are claiming that the vaccine leads to more PICU admissions than it prevents.
 

The facts:

The table used as proof for this claim is a projection of several scenarios that could happen given varying levels of COVID in the community (see page 34 here). The FDA source for this table is based on myocarditis rates for 12-17-year-olds and states that the rates for 5-11-year-old children may be a "conservative overestimate."

Still, in almost all scenarios, excess ICU admissions due to myocarditis are half as many as would be prevented from COVID. 

Regardless of how they read and/or misinterpret the tables, vaccination has other benefits, such as reduced transmission to others and reduced chances of long COVID. The benefits still outweigh the risks in every category.

Rotavirus vaccine recall

The claim:

A really mean anti-vaccine doctor with whom you SERIOUSLY do not want to engage is claiming that a previous version of the rotavirus vaccine was recalled after babies died. Why is she claiming this? To make you scared about COVID vaccines and all vaccines in young children.
 

The facts:

Around the world, rotavirus kills around 500,000 children each year, (about 1 in every 300 who contract it). Even in countries where there isn't high mortality, it often causes severe disease and hospitalization.

To combat this devastation, the Rotashield vaccine was licensed in 1998. In trials, Rotashield had an efficacy of 80% for the prevention of severe disease and of 48% to 68% against all rotavirus-induced diarrheal episodes.

But what of the claim that 55 babies died after receiving Rotashield leading to its recall. Rotashield was correlated with a higher risk of intussusception. This condition of the intestines has a background rate (number of expected cases before the vaccine) of 18 to 43 per 100,000 annually. Though they did find an increased number of infants with intussusception, there was only one death. And the vaccine was not recalled, but voluntarily withdrawn

This story highlights the importance of post-licensing surveillance, as the intussusception risk was not statistically significant during the trials. Because of this surveillance, the concern was identified quickly in a larger population, and different vaccines were produced.

Mental health challenges

The claim:

Hashtag campaigns gather large numbers of unrelated anecdotes and claim a pattern of harm from vaccines. Oftentimes, these anecdotes blame COVID vaccines for mental health challenges. Is this possible?
 

The facts:

Any change in behaviors or health status can be difficult, but in many of these anecdotal cases, there is no actual indication that a vaccine is at fault.

The only correlation in the story given is that related temporally to a vaccine recently received. The story makes no mention of other life events (other than graduating high school and joining the army), or previous health or mental health histories. The doctors or other medical professionals are not claiming causation, but instead the family members, without a full understanding of medicine or the human body, are making their own connections. The story does not, however, provide us with any concrete evidence. 

We do know, however, that vaccine access in 2021 was correlated to a reduction in anxiety and depression. 

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