Vaccine conspiracy theories have increased in recent months around the available COVID-19 vaccinations. In part-two of reporter Sarah Flower’s interview with pediatricians across the state, they discuss these myths and the hesitancy that’s preventing families from getting their children vaccinated.

Interview Transcription:

Sarah Flower 00:00
I’m Sarah Flower with KSUT News. Today we are joined by Dr. Rusha Lev, general pediatrician based in Denver and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Colorado Chapter. We’re also joined by Dr. Jessica Cataldi, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist with Childrens Hospital Colorado, and local pediatrician Dr. Kelly Miller with Pediatric Partners of the Southwest. Today we’ll be talking about vaccine hesitancy and going over some of the rumors that these doctors have heard in their offices recently, in terms of getting children vaccinated for COVID-19. One of the main reasons, and a hot issue that I have heard of why people are not getting vaccinated is the issue that these vaccines cause infertility. Dr. Cataldi, this one goes to you.

Dr. Jessica Cataldi 00:47
So COVID-19 vaccines do not cause any problems with fertility. That is a myth that was started for the COVID vaccine, but it’s not new. So it’s a myth that we’ve heard about other vaccines in the past. No vaccine that we currently use has ever been shown to have any bad impact on fertility. We know that based on the initial basic science studies of the COVID vaccine. There was low concern that it would have any bad impact on fertility. And we also know that when pregnant women get infected with COVID, they have a much higher risk of having severe illness, having to be in an ICU, having their baby born early or other complications, compared to non pregnant people. And so it’s actually very important for people who are pregnant to be protected from COVID-19 during pregnancy. And so for that reason, the COVID-19 vaccine was recommended for pregnant people to think about and discuss. And we now have a lot of data actually from thousands of pregnant women who got the COVID vaccine during their pregnancy, earlier this year during the beginning of 2021. And looking at folks who got the vaccine when they were pregnant and comparing them to pregnant people who didn’t get the vaccine. The rates of things like miscarriages, early birth, or other complications are the same or lower in the vaccinated people. So it does not cause problems during pregnancy, it does not cause problems with getting pregnant or fertility later. And at this point, the American College of OB GYN has gone forward to continue even more strongly recommending this vaccine during pregnancy, because they want to avoid those complications that can happen in pregnant women who get COVID-19. So it’s a myth that we’ve heard with other vaccines before, and that’s actually kind of common some of the misinformation around the COVID vaccine, or things that we as pediatricians have heard about other vaccines in the past. When you start seeing that it’s that pattern of misinformation, that pattern of the same concern or myth being brought up for multiple vaccines become less likely that it’s going to be true, because it’s not really based in any science.

Sarah Flower 02:51
The next one I want to jump into, is that this vaccine has been rushed too soon. For people that are saying this is emergency youth authorization that has not been approved by the FDA, and that’s why I’m hesitant to get the vaccine. What are your thoughts for those individuals with those concerns. Dr. Miller?

Dr. Kelly Miller 03:08
I would say that’s probably the most common concern that I’m getting in the pediatric office, is I’m just not ready. It seems like the vaccine came too fast. They may get it for themselves, but not their kids. I have them say, I’m thinking maybe I’ll be ready to get it in the winter or spring. So maybe again, not anti-vaccine, but just not ready and concerned about how fast tracked it was. And my general skill that I’m telling talking to families about is that in general, SARS and MERS is not new. I mean, when people originally learned about this, they were looking back to, you know, Middle Eastern countries and stuff and saying this existed in the early 2000s, just maybe under a little bit of a different name, and vaccine development globally, internationally was started back then to try to help in the early 2000s. And how lucky were we that it never…it quit on its own, and we didn’t get a global pandemic back then. And then I think the other piece is where normally things would take years to go through all the FDA process, the reason that these came out early is because there was such huge mortality rate, hospitalization rate, science and technology needed to step in with some old science and start making the vaccine faster. So they did do emergency use authorization to help get it available to the public. It doesn’t mean that safety or efficacy, where corners were cut, they were not.

Sarah Flower 04:40
Dr.Lev, for you in your office, what do you say to families when parents come in and say, well kids don’t really get COVID and if they do get COVID, they’re healthy enough and won’t even get that sick.

Dr. Rusha Lev 04:51
I approach that from a couple of angles. The first is to say vaccines in general, this is really no different from the other vaccines we give and we’ve given your kids all these different vaccines, and we do it because we know it’s safe. And that there aren’t known long term consequences of any of these. And this technology is not so different that we should be worried about that. So I try to reassure people about that. I will often, you know, make a joke, or something like I got the vaccine in December, and I haven’t grown a tail. And still, you know, I’m still here to, you know, to do all the things that I should be doing. But then I’ll also say that, yes, your kids are healthy, but their immune systems have never, and no one’s immune system has ever seen this virus. And so they are therefore not prepared for it. And the only way to sort of prepare their immune system to fight it appropriately, and keep them safe, and importantly, keep other people safe. And really importantly, like go back to normal, which is what we all really want to do, is to get the vaccine so that their bodies will be ready to fight off COVID should they be exposed to it.

Sarah Flower 05:53
There’s been a lot of buzz in terms of vaccine hesitancy for children in myocarditis. Dr. Cataldi do you want to talk about this.

Dr. Jessica Cataldi 06:00
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle or the tissues around that heart. And that’s something that happens on the order of, you know, between one and 10 and a million doses. And it seems to affect younger people more than older. So this is something that we started seeing from the MRNA vaccines. So that would be the Pfizer and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. And we started seeing it once more people in their teens and 20s started getting vaccinated. The way that we learned that this was happening is that there are these safety surveillance systems already set up for new and old vaccines to monitor for different conditions, as vaccines are being used out in the public, in doctor’s offices, in public health clinics. And those safety systems have been going on for decades. So that even after they’ve been studied and approved by the FDA, we can still look for those very rare side effects. And what they found is that even though these are very rare, Myocarditis does seem to occur more often after a dose of the vaccine than it would in other kids. Myocarditis, that inflammation of the heart can happen completely unrelated to COVID vaccination. We see it with some viruses, we see it sometimes and we never figure out the cause. But it’s been in a slightly higher rate after vaccine. Thankfully, these cases of Myocarditis in kids and young adults have been quite mild, so it can cause some chest pain, sometimes heart palpitations. It usually happens somewhere around two to four days after the vaccine. It’s a little more common with the second dose than the first. Some kids will need to come into the hospital to get pain medicine or anti inflammatory medicine. And then we evaluate their heart to make sure that there’s not any problem with the function of how the heart is pumping. And we check their blood work to see if there really are signs of inflammation on the heart. If there is we treat them with pain medicines and anti inflammatory medicines, and almost all of the people who’ve had this and had to go to the hospital have gone home within just a couple of days. So it is a real association. It is very rare, and it’s thankfully a quite mild episode. The other thing to know is that COVID itself can cause Myocarditis. So getting sick and getting infected with COVID can also cause problems with your heart. And that’s probably more common actually then getting this problem after the vaccine.

Sarah Flower 08:24
We’ve been joined today by Dr. Jessica Cataldi, pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Childrens Hospital Colorado, Dr. Rusha Lev, pediatrician based in Denver and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and local pediatrician, Dr. Kelly Miller, based at Pediatric Partners of the Southwest, bringing us facts and information about the COVID-19 vaccine and how it affects children.