Do healthy children "never ever" get severe COVID-19 and do mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 undermine children's immune systems, putting them at risk for other infectious diseases? No, that's not true: Pediatric infectious disease researchers have documented multiple cases of previously healthy children infected with COVID-19 and hospitalized in intensive care units, says a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University's medical school. The growing body of data based on hundreds of millions of doses administered worldwide show that vaccines produce a broader and longer-lasting immunity than the response developed from an infection and do not harm the immune system, the University of Nebraska Medical College reported in vaccine guidance to the public.
The claims appeared in a February 17, 2022, Facebook video (archived here) posted by radio host Dana Loesch under the title "SCIENCE vs POLITICS." It opened:
Dr. Geert Vanden Bossche On Why The COVID Vaccine Is A Bad Idea For Kids
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Feb 21 21:27:08 2022 UTC)
The claims were made by Belgian veterinarian/virology Ph.D. Geert Vanden Bossche during an interview with show host Loesch. At the 02:15 mark of the video, Vanden Bossche makes the claims:
As you were pointing out, correctly, Dana, I mean a child in good health there is no problem whatsoever with this virus. Of course they can get mild illness and of course maybe can be sick for one or two days but never ever will a child in good health contract severe disease so it it is really propaganda but but it's it's extremely dangerous. There are the side effects in the short term but there are the consequences of undermining this innate immune system in children that I'm afraid to say is going to have detrimental consequences.
Professor Anna Sick-Samuels, MD with a master's degree in Public Health, who has co-authored multiple papers in pediatrics science journals, wrote in a February 21, 2022, email to Lead Stories that Vanden Bossche is incorrect to dismiss the risk COVID-19 poses to healthy children:
Although it may not be as common as older adults, some children with COVID can get severely ill, and MIS-C is a life-threatening complication of COVID infection in children for which many children need to be admitted to the intensive care unit...MISC generally occurs in previously healthy children. It is still not clear why some children develop this complication and others do not.
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a condition in which the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs become inflamed.
Professor Sick-Samuels said new studies confirm the risks, which were outlined in a March 2021 article she co-authored for The British Medical Journal. In the email to Lead Stories, she noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had collected 7,000 reports of MIS-C from public health agencies, including 59 deaths, as of January 31, 2022.
The CDC's information page for parents says the condition appears to be related to COVID-19 exposure:
We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. However, we know that many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly ...
Vanden Bossche is the subject of multiple fact checks by multiple outlets, including the team of doctors and Ph.D.s at Health Feedback, which found he misstated the effect of COVID vaccines on the human immune system and provided no evidence vaccines "undermine" immune system function. Also finding errors in his claims, Snopes.com documented how he overstated risks from vaccination. Lead Stories has debunked three prior claims (archived here) made about the vaccines by Vanden Bossche.
Though it does not include pediatric-specific information, by September of 2021, the University of Nebraska medical school's public information program was unequivocal about the superiority of vaccine-based immunity:
The data is clear: Natural immunity is not better. The COVID-19 vaccines create more effective and longer-lasting immunity than natural immunity from infection.
- More than a third of COVID-19 infections result in zero protective antibodies
- Natural immunity fades faster than vaccine immunity
- Natural immunity alone is less than half as effective than natural immunity plus vaccination
The takeaway: Get vaccinated, even if you've had COVID-19. Vaccine immunity is stronger than natural immunity.
"Natural immunity can be spotty. Some people can react vigorously and get a great antibody response. Other people don't get such a great response," says infectious diseases expert Mark Rupp, MD. "Clearly, vaccine-induced immunity is more standardized and can be longer-lasting."