Nearly two weeks ago, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccines had finally been authorized for emergency use in children ages five to 11 years old. It was a huge relief to a number of parents who had patiently been waiting until their kids could receive the vaccine, but actor Matthew McConaughey was quick to share a different perspective at The New York Times’ DealBook summit this Tuesday. The Oscar winner and father of three expressed opposition to vaccine mandates for children and revealed that, although he has been vaccinated, he is still hesitant to vaccinate his children, saying he wants “to find out more information.” And as health experts rush to reiterate the information that’s already out there on the efficacy of these vaccines, the uproar caused by McConaughey’s comments feels more worthy of scrutiny than the comments themselves.
In the wake of McConaughey sharing his opinion, experts including Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy have spoken out about what we already know: that these vaccines are an important and effective way to keep our kids safe.
“Covid is not harmless in our children,” the Surgeon General reaffirmed, per CNN. “And the vaccines have shown in these trials for children five through 11 they are more at 90% effective in protecting our kids from symptomatic infection, and they are remarkably safe as well.”
Big Bird, Sesame Street's beloved yellow puppet announced he received his COVID-19 vaccine — and it ruffled some feathers on social media. https://t.co/FzQFualBWg
— SheKnows (@SheKnows) November 9, 2021
Along with the vaccine’s efficacy rates, other experts have explained even more benefits of vaccinating young children. Pediatricians Anna Sick-Samuels, M.D., M.P.H., of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and Allison Messina, M.D., of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, laid out a comprehensive guide explaining how the vaccine can have positive impacts beyond protecting individuals from the virus by preventing and reducing the spread of COVID-19, controlling other variants from mutating, protecting the community, and helping take another step toward our familiar sense of normalcy.
Dr. Leana Wen, the former Commissioner of the Baltimore City Health Department, has also answered extensive and personalized questions ranging from traveling with kids during Thanksgiving to what to do if kids have to go to school during the days following vaccination. We’re still very much in the midst of a once-in-a-century public health crisis that will have lasting impacts for years to come. During these critical months, it’s so important to listen to the experts who have dedicated their time and minds to understanding our current and future national medical needs — which brings us back to McConaughey’s comments.
It’s critical to bear in mind that McConaughey’s comments should only be considered as coming from a father and private citizen — not an expert in the field or someone with privileged information on these issues. And it’s frustrating to see McConaughey’s comments so amplified, particularly his request for “more information,” when experts have consistently been sounding off on available research about COVID-19 and kids and receiving far less attention than this actor does when he shares his point of view. McConaughey’s comments don’t raise any new questions — they just reveal the parenting choices of one famous man.
The science is there — we just need to listen, and not to McConaughey.
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