Should Young People Be Forced to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Op-ed

Mandatory vaccination may infringe on personal freedom, but is necessary to ensure public health. Mandatory vaccination does not extend to medically exempted people and children under 5 years old. Poll results from COVID States Project show that 64% of Americans support mandatory vaccination for the entire population. Mandatory vaccinations will be difficult to enforce on adults but can be enforced on minors through school programs. In this article, we will be reviewing reasons for mandatory vaccinations.

Efficacy of vaccines

mRNA vaccine technology is used by the three most popular vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. mRNA stands for Messenger RNA. mRNA technology is not new. It has been researched since the 1970s, and human trials involving mRNA vaccines for cancer have been ongoing since 2011. Upon entering the muscle cells in the upper arm, the mRNA vaccine will instruct cell machinery to produce spike protein. Spike protein is found on the surface of the COVID-19 cell. The immune system recognizes a foreign protein and starts producing antibodies. These antibodies are the antibodies that are produced when a person gets infected with COVID-19. Pfizer’s and Moderna's vaccines are 95% effective while vaccines from AstraZeneca are 70% effective.

MIS-C and risks of complications in children

Even though children usually only get mild complications from COVID-19, there are many others who have developed severe complications from COVID-19. As of December 2nd 2021, child infection rate per-capita is 9,344 cases per 100,000 children in America. Only 0.1% to 1.9% of this figure will result in hospitalization. However, a COVID-19 infection can disrupt school and disrupt the child’s life. A more concerning complication from COVID-19 in children is the emergence of MIS-C, which stands for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. Doctors have spotted a surge in MIS-C cases from August 2020, which was the result of COVID-19 infection. MIS-C is treatable, but is also dangerous if not detected early. As of November 2021, there have been 5,526 cases of MIS-C and 48 deaths in the United States. CDC data shows no underlying health conditions that could have caused children to become more susceptible to MIS-C. Without MIS-C, children can still spread the virus to vulnerable people such as the elderly or the unvaccinated.

Teenagers may carry infectious levels of coronavirus

In a household, teenagers are most likely to bring COVID-19 into the household and toddlers (under 3 years old) are 43% more likely than older members of the household to spread COVID-19. Another study analyzed health records of 6280 households from June to December 2020 and found that children and teenagers were the source of the coronavirus in 1 in 13 households. A study published on October 14th in the Journal of Infectious Disease also found that children can carry high, infectious levels of coronavirus. Vaccination can lower the chances of teenagers catching coronavirus, and hence prevent transmission. The symptoms of COVID-19 on teenagers may be mild, but teenagers who are carriers of COVID-19 are a danger to those around them. In addition, since teenagers are more infectious, they also play a big role in the development of variant strains.

Side effects from vaccination

There are side effects to taking the vaccine. These side effects include fever, fatigue, headache, and muscle pain. More serious side effects are blood clots and other allergic reactions. Myocarditis has been reported, but scientists do not know if it was triggered by the vaccine. About 25% of people receiving the Pfizer or AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine have reported mild side effects which clear up on their own. Headache was the most common side effect. By March 9th, only 0.6% of people taking the vaccine had reported facial paralysis as a side effect. 11 in a million people will report severe allergic reactions, and only 1 in a million people will experience myocarditis. Clearly, the chances of getting severe side effects from the vaccine are extremely low and should not be used as an excuse to stay unvaccinated.

Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from the virus.

Risk of death from COVID-19 higher than odds of suffering long-term side effects from vaccination

The risk of dying from COVID-19 is much higher than the risk of getting severe side effects from the vaccine. Unvaccinated people are more likely to contract the virus than vaccinated people. If vaccinated people do contract the virus, symptoms are minimal and home recovery is enough. A study of data from across 13 USA states found that vaccinated people are 10 times less likely to be admitted to hospital and five times less likely to be infected than unvaccinated people. On the other hand, unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from the virus. As of July 22nd 2021, 98% to 99% of Americans who died from COVID-19 are unvaccinated. These facts alone should be enough to convince people to get vaccinated. Unvaccinated people are most at risk of coronavirus transmission, especially from teenagers who are more infectious.

Prevention is cheaper than treatment

CDC data shows that unvaccinated cases, which are mostly preventable, have accumulated a cost of over 5 billion US dollars.

In America, the average payment for a vaccine dose is $25 without subsidies from the government or insurance. Moderna is the most expensive vaccine at $37. The federal government has previously announced that the vaccine will be free for the public. Vaccines are accessible and affordable for anyone who wants to get vaccinated. Japan, France, and India are offering free vaccinations for the public, as are most other countries. Compare these costs to the cost of COVID-19 treatment. America charges an average of $30,000 for treatment, with higher costs for critical cases. Getting vaccinated can prevent needless spending on healthcare. From June to August 2021, CDC data shows that unvaccinated cases, which are mostly preventable, have accumulated a cost of over 5 billion US dollars. Children and teenagers have lower chances of getting the virus, but COVID-19 may turn out to be an endemic disease. We must prepare children and teenagers for this situation by getting them vaccinated. Furthermore, more adults may be encouraged to get vaccinated if they see that their children have received it.

Conclusion

The herd immunity threshold for COVID-19 is 70%, which can be gained through vaccination. Despite this, the emergence of the Delta variant may drive this figure to an upwards of 80%. This herd immunity threshold should account for the world population, but only limiting demographics to individual countries may be a more achievable target. On 9th December 2021, only 60.1% of the American population has been vaccinated, which is barely enough to achieve herd immunity. In the United States, about half of all teenagers (aged 12 to 17) have yet to be vaccinated. This means that unvaccinated teenagers carrying coronavirus may be out and about. This is dangerous to the millions of unvaccinated adults and seniors. Vaccinating these teenagers will also bring us closer to our herd immunity targets, if we are ever to reach an endemic state. To encourage higher rates of vaccination amongst teenagers and children, compulsory vaccination programs should be rolled out in schools. This will prove beneficial for public health.

References:

Nathaniel Rakich (AUG. 6, 2021) ‘Americans Are In Favor Of Vaccine Mandates. But Support Is Driven Mainly By Those Who Have Already Gotten The Jab.’ Five Thirty-Eight, Pollapalooza,

Chris Beyrer (October 06, 2021) ‘The Long History of mRNA Vaccines’ John Hopkins Bloomberg School Of Public Health

Alex Whiting (11 December 2020) ‘Five things you need to know about: mRNA vaccine safety’ Horizon The EU Research And Innovation Magazine

CDC.gov (Nov. 3, 2021) ‘mRNA Vaccines’, Accessed 8th December 2021

Mary Van Beusekom (Apr 28, 2021) ‘Data reveal fewer real-world COVID vaccine side effects’ CIDRAP Centre For Infectious Disease Research And Policy

Tina Hesman Saey (JUNE 1, 2021) ‘Here’s what we know about the risks of serious side effects from COVID-19 vaccines’ ScienceNews

Matt Windsor (July 06, 2021) ‘Three things to know about the long-term side effects of COVID vaccines’ UAB News

Dyer O. Covid-19: Unvaccinated face 11 times risk of death from delta variant, CDC data show BMJ 2021; 374 :n2282 doi:10.1136/bmj.n2282

Krutika Amin Twitter, Matthew Rae Twitter, Samantha Artiga, Gregory Young, and Giorlando Ramirez (February 12, 2021) ‘Where do Americans get vaccines and how much does it cost to administer them?’ Health System Tracker

Krutika Amin Twitter and Cynthia Cox (September 14, 2021) ‘Unvaccinated COVID-19 hospitalizations cost billions of dollars’ Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker

Ben Spencer and Tom Calver (Sunday November 28 2021) ‘Intensive care beds filled with unvaccinated Covid patients ‘, The Sunday Times

Reuters ‘United States COVID-19 tracker’, Reuters COVID-19 tracker, accessed 9th December 2021

Paul LA, Daneman N, Schwartz KL, et al. Association of Age and Pediatric Household Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Infection. JAMA Pediatr. 2021;175(11):1151–1158. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.2770

Susie Flaherty ‘Children could be dangerous carriers of virus’ October 14, 2021 The Harvard Gazette

Damian McNamara ‘Delta Variant Could Drive 'Herd Immunity' Threshold Over 80%’ WebMD, Aug. 3, 2021

JENNY GOLD, SAMANTHA YOUNG ‘‘Not quite on board’: Parents proving a tough sell on COVID-19 vaccine for teens’ NOV. 4, 2021, Kaiser Health News, Los Angeles Times

Robert Preidt ‘Kids Highly Likely to Transmit COVID to Others’ THURSDAY, Jan. 21, 2021, WebMD

Nina Anin
1,000+ pageviews

Nina is a writer from Southeast Asia. She is 16, soon to be in the final year of secondary school. She enjoys reading, writing, and making zines in her free time.