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Washington, DC—Today, June 24, 2021, NCL Director of Health Policy Jeanette Contreras, submitted written testimony to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in support of pediatric COVID-19 vaccines. Her comments appear below.
José R. Romero, MD, FAAP, Chair
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road, N.E., Mailstop A27
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027
RE: Docket No. CDC- 2021-0060; rescheduled from June 18; new docket no. CDC-2021-0034
Good afternoon. My name is Jeanette Contreras, and today I am representing the National Consumers League (NCL), which for over 120 years has championed the overwhelming safety and efficacy of vaccines and promoted vaccine education. Consumer access to these lifesaving medical interventions is critical. I am also speaking today as a mother of two boys, ages 8 and 9. I appreciate the opportunity to provide public comment before this advisory committee.
The U.S. has reached a tragic 600,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19. The virus continues to spread and mutate around the world. Sadly, 330 children and adolescents are among the 600,000 deaths. Although preexisting medical conditions clearly predispose children to severe disease, healthy children are also at risk for severe COVID-19 and multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). Though MIS-C is a rare condition associated with COVID-19, Black and Hispanic children are disproportionately affected, making up 64% of the cases observed in children 1-14 years of age.
Though there is reason to be concerned about the increase in cases of myocarditis or pericarditis following the second shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, consumers should be reassured that the safety monitoring system, Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), is working as intended. Federal health officials are investigating the rare cases of which the most common symptoms reported were chest pain, elevated cardiac enzymes, ST or T wave changes, dyspnea and abnormal echocardiography or imaging. We applaud the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for releasing clinical guidance to providers alerting them to consider myocarditis and pericarditis in adolescents or young adults with acute chest pain, shortness of breath, or palpitations. So far, 80 percent of patients reported have made a full recovery.
We commend the coordinated efforts of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC to monitor the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine has been administered safely to over 150 million Americans, and we are on target to reach herd immunity by October, with at least 70% of Americans vaccinated. Given the remarkable evidence of safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 in adults, parents should be assured that the vaccine will keep their children safe.
Our children are vaccinated for measles, rubella, polio, diphtheria, typhoid, and other routine childhood vaccines that have for decades prevented deadly illnesses that historically killed millions of children. Today, thanks to vaccine adherence, these illnesses have virtually been eradicated and far rarer than COVID-19. Unfortunately, uptake for routine pediatric immunizations have declined during the pandemic. It is essential we ensure that children are up to date with their vaccines. We are excited that data show the COVID-19 vaccine can safely be co-administered along with routine pediatric vaccinations. As we consider future educational outreach campaigns to increase vaccine confidence, we should encourage families to seek recommended immunizations for their children along with the COVID-19 vaccine.
As states lift public health emergency protocols across the country, too many of our children remain unnecessarily unprotected. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as of June 10, over 4 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. About 14,500 new child cases were reported last week. We are only beginning to understand the long-term health effects associated with COVID-19, which include extreme fatigue, rapid heart rate, memory loss, gastrointestinal problems and other symptoms that are lasting months after infection. There is a need to collect more data on the long-haul effects on children, and to provide assistance to families who are struggling to find care for their children. We urge the CDC to provide guidance to providers and patients on what to look for when treating children who were previously infected with COVID-19.
As I dropped my 8-year-old at camp yesterday, I was telling him how beginning July 1 we won’t need to wear masks. He asked me “is that because everybody will be vaccinated- except me?” My husband and I are vaccinated, but our family is still at risk of being infected by any of the emerging variants. And when school-aged children return to the classroom in the fall, we may face a spike in pediatric cases.
Through our education and outreach efforts, the National Consumers League will continue to support efforts to vaccinate the nation across lifespan. The absence of a COVID-19 vaccine for pediatric populations will lead to continued transmission and leave children at risk for infection. To achieve meaningful herd immunity, we will need to ensure that children have access to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, and also consider the unique disparities that children of color experience in the face of the pandemic.
Thank you to the Committee for your consideration of our views on this important public health issue.
Jeanette Contreras, MPP
Director of Health Policy
National Consumers League
About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.