“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”

-Edmund Burke, 1757

Just when you thought it was safe to resume some semblance of a normal life, another danger has appeared on the horizon: children ages 12-17. According to a Tulsa World article published Monday, the very low vaccination rate for that age demographic is cause for concern. Dr. Dale Bratzler, the University of Oklahoma’s chief Covid officer, is extremely worried about a spike in infections and deaths in the fall because of low vaccination rates for children ages 12-17. Citing data posted by the New York Times, he states that only 13% of Oklahomans aged 12-17 have had one dose of the vaccine, and only 6% have been fully vaccinated. This is bad news according to Dr. Bratzler, as it places Oklahoma well below the nation-wide one-dose average of 28% for 12-17-year-olds.

While this may sound concerning, one must wonder why he is emphasizing vaccinations for 12-year-olds. Children run the lowest risk of infection, hospitalization, or death out of any age demographic – and it’s not even close. Here is Dr. Bratzler’s argument in a nutshell: currently, children ages 12-17 have some of the highest rates of transmission and infection in Oklahoma. This, combined with low vaccinations rates for the 12-17 age demographic, could lead to community spread that infects older and more vulnerable populations, leading to large spike in cases and death once school resumes in the fall.

Fortunately, Dr. Bratzler’s fears are not borne out by the facts. First, as mentioned previously, children are less susceptible to the virus than adults, and are also less likely to transmit it to others. Second, the data do not support the claim that schools are major vectors of transmission. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Based on the data available, in-person learning in schools has not been associated with substantial community transmission.” Finally, the vaccination rate is very high for those over the age of 65, i.e. the older and more vulnerable population that Dr. Bratzler expresses worry for. According to data posted by the Washington Post and the New York Times, approximately 82% of adults in Oklahoma over the age of 65 have had one shot, while approximately 72% are fully vaccinated.

In addition, the vaccine is experimental. We have no idea what sort of long-term negative effects it could cause. The FDA made it available to the public through an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). According to the FDA website, “Under an EUA, in an emergency, the FDA makes a product available to the public based on the best available evidence, without waiting for all the evidence that would be needed for FDA approval or clearance.”

To be clear, I am not maintaining that the vaccine is necessarily dangerous nor am I advising anyone against taking it. I am simply pointing out that we do not have any long-term data on the effects of this vaccine; therefore, it is not crazy or “un-patriotic” to be a bit hesitant to give this vaccine to your children. Of course, long-term data would be impossible to come by at this point, yet it seems unwise to encourage (read: guilt-trip) parents to vaccinate their children with no information as to the long-term effect it might have on their health.

If children are at extremely low risk of serious infection, vulnerable populations are highly vaccinated or shielded, and schools are not vectors of transmission, why should young and otherwise healthy children get an Emergency Use Authorized vaccine?

Our decisions should be driven by data and reason, unclouded by the fear pushed by those who should know better.

Tyler Williamson is a Research Associate at 1889 Institute and can be reached at twilliamson@1889institute.org.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of 1889 Institute.