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By Alexis Waiss November 9, 2022

Kari Lake says falsely that COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective and dangerous for children

If Your Time is short

  • Depending on the variant and study, COVID-19 vaccination has proved to be 60% to 90% effective at preventing infection. One study found the vaccine to be 82% effective at preventing hospitalization.

  • Out of 8.7 million doses given to school-aged children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found only 100 serious reactions to vaccines in 2021. Half of those reactions were temporary vomiting and fever. 

  • The CDC saw about a dozen reports involving vaccinated children developing a heart condition called myocarditis that resolved quickly.

As doctors and other public health officials wait to see whether a new wave of COVID-19 will hit the nation, Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake said she won’t mandate COVID-19 vaccination for children to attend school. 

"We’re not going to force our precious, healthy children to get a shot that is already proving to be not only ineffective, it’s also proving to be dangerous," Lake said Oct. 19.

Fear and concern over vaccine safety have reduced vaccination programs’ reach. The challenge for pediatricians is that as of January 2022, COVID-19 was the fourth most common cause of death among children ages 5 to 14.

Compared with that risk, physician Sean P. Elliot, emeritus professor of pediatrics at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, said vaccine studies don’t support Lake’s statement. 

"The best, overall summary of efficacy data to date finds a protective efficacy of 90% to 100% from the start of the pandemic through last May when omicron was circulating globally," Elliot said. 

Vaccine effectiveness can be measured in two ways. Researchers look to see whether the shot prevents people from ever getting COVID-19. They also measure how well the vaccines prevent serious illness. Elliot pointed to a Journal of Medical Virology survey of many studies conducted in the United States and worldwide. Researchers focused on seven studies that met the highest standards of study design.

In one study, a trial of the vaccines used in the U.S. gave two doses to children ages 5 to 11. One week after the second dose, 90% of the children had not caught the disease. A similar trial for minors ages 12 to 17 found no cases after two weeks.

An August study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the Pfizer vaccine was 65% effective against PCR-confirmed infections and 82.7% effective against hospitalization for fully vaccinated children 5 to 11 years old. 

The omicron variant is more infectious than the virus’s earlier versions. A May study found that vaccines were less effective against omicron, but getting two doses cut the risk of hospitalization by two-thirds for children ages 5 to 11.

Although vaccines increase immunity, children who are vaccinated can still get breakthrough cases of COVID-19, said Dr. Joanne Loethen, a pediatric physician in Kansas City, Missouri.

On Oct. 20, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices encouraged parents to include the COVID-19 vaccine as part of their children’s immunization cycle for school. Months earlier, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for children as young as 6 months.

"As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death," said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf in a statement

Elliot, along with other pediatricians, said the COVID-19 vaccine is safe to use and can help at-risk populations stay healthy. 

"The vaccines are providing similar efficacy against the child being contagious to their families, especially including at-risk family members such as grandparents and immunocompromised people," Elliot said.

Setting aside the most common and minor reactions to vaccination — chills, headaches, muscle ache and the like — the risks of serious reactions to the vaccine are small. For example, the initial clinical trial of the Pfizer vaccine on more than 3,000 children ages 5 to 11 showed few serious reactions.

After more than 8.7 million doses in that age group, parents reported 100 cases of serious reactions, or about one one-thousandth of 1% of doses. 

Half of the cases involved fever or vomiting, which passed. There were 11 cases of a heart inflammation condition called myocarditis; all those children recovered. Two children with complicated pre-existing medical conditions died, with no apparent link to vaccination.

Among children 12 to 15 years old, the CDC reported 358 verified cases of myocarditis out of 24,500,294 doses administered.

Our ruling

Lake said COVID-19 vaccines have been proved ineffective and dangerous for children. 

At the start of 2022, COVID-19 was the fourth leading cause of death among children 5 to 14. Depending on the virus variant and the study, vaccination has proved to be between 60% to 90% effective in preventing infection. One study found vaccination was 82% effective in preventing hospitalization among children 5 to 11 years old.

The vaccine is far less dangerous than the disease. Most vaccine reactions are minor. After 8.7 million doses given to school-aged children, parents reported 100 serious reactions. Half of those were vomiting and fever. 

We rate this claim False.


Our Sources

Kari Lake, Tweet, Oct. 19, 2022

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "ACIP Immunization Schedule Vote", Oct. 20, 2022

Arizona Department of Health Services, "State & National Immunization Coverage Data - Immunization Coverage Data," Nov. 5, 2022

Journal of Medical Virology, "Safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in children and adolescents: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials," June 15, 2022

The New England Journal of Medicine, "Effectiveness of BNT162b2 Vaccine against Omicron in Children 5 to 11 Years of Age," Aug. 11, 2022

The New England Journal of Medicine, "BNT162b2 Protection against the Omicron Variant in Children and Adolescents," May 19, 2022 

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccines for Children Down to 6 Months of Age," June 17, 2022

Mayo Clinic, "COVID-19 vaccines for kids: What you need to know," Nov. 5, 2022

American Medical Association, "What doctors wish parents knew about kids' COVID-19 vaccine safety," June 15, 2022

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination," Oct. 31, 2022

Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, COVID-19 leading cause of death ranking, March 24, 2022

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 Vaccine Safety in Children Aged 5–11 Years, Dec. 31, 2021

Email exchange, Dr. Sean P. Elliot, emeritus professor of pediatrics at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Nov. 5-6

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Kari Lake says falsely that COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective and dangerous for children

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