The WHO Definitely Did Not Say 'Don't Vax Kids Against Covid'

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Scary Mommy and Tang Ming Tung/Getty

Like comedian Bo Burnham says, the internet’s got mountains of content, some better, some worse. And lately, it’s been playing an awesomely awful game of telephone, where one person heard another person say that the World Health Organization said we shouldn’t vaccinate children against COVID-19, and it totally must be true, because the WHO guidelines said it. The Facebook page “Young Americans for Liberty,” a name which shouldn’t make you nervous at all, published a screenshot, presumably from the WHO website, with the words highlighted, “Children should not be vaccinated for the moment.”

They go on to bitch that they got “fact-checked” (their air quotes) after their post was widely shared because “the WHO stealth edited its own post after the fact.” One instagrammer posted a graphic saying: “W.H.O. yesterday: “stop giving kids the vax immediately”

He even sourced it, which was very kind of him. Unfortunately, he was fucking wrong.

And since this subject has to do with a) COVID-19, and b) right-wing fuckery, everyone’s fav Q-Anon Congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Green, had to weigh in:

Everyone missed three little teensy words in the WHO guidelines: for the moment. And this is all because the WHO guidelines were updated on June 22, and all this crap comes from before June 22 (oh, those stealth edits!). Factcheck says the WHO guidelines, according to archived versions of the page, have been the same since, oh, at least April.

But WHO Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said on June 11 that, “Because children, though they can get infected with Covid-19 and they can transmit the infection to others, they are at much lower risk of getting severe disease compared to older adults.”

All this, combined with the pre-June 22 language, apparently translated to: do not vaccinate your children.

The WHO guidelines never said: do not vaccinate your children.

They may have said: Save doses. They may have said: Children are not a priority. But they never said: Do not vaccinate your children.

So How Did WHO Guidelines Change?

Newsflash, brave truth-seekers of the internet: they didn’t. They were clarified. As of June 25, the WHO guidelines stated that “Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, so unless they are part of a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers.” Remember, it’s the World Health Organization, not the American Health Organization. They’re looking out for everyone on Planet Earth, and compared to the entire population of Planet Earth, there is a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

WHO guidelines continue that, “More evidence is needed on the use of the different COVID-19 vaccines in children to be able to make general recommendations on vaccinating children against COVID-19.” This does not say not to vaccinate your children. It only states there is not enough information to make general recommendations about vaccinating kids against COVID-19. However, the document goes on to say that the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine is safe for those 12-15 years old, and should be used for that population if they fall into high-risk categories.

This is the same as German guidelines: their vaccine committee recommends the Pfizer shot for kids twelve and up if the child has a preexisting condition; however, “doctors were allowed to give the shot if the individual accepts the risk.” They remain concerned about long-term health effects of the vaccine.

This Conflicts With the CDC Strategy

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The WHO guidelines are damage control for the world: they’re trying to save as many global citizens as possible. But the CDC, the United States’ Centers for Disease Control, is trying to control the pandemic in the United States. This doesn’t mean we’re neglecting the whole human race; the White House announced on June 10th that over the course of the next year, we’ll donate half a billion Pfizer vaccines to “92 low- and middle-income countries and the African Union.”

However, the CDC is a United States organization that works for the United States government, not the world at large. And while the WHO guidelines recommend saving those precious doses, doling them out to only high-risk adolescents, the CDC wants to achieve as much vaccine coverage as possible in the United States. They recommend that “everyone 12 years and older should get a COVID-19 vaccination to help protect against COVID-19. Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic.”

As Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia explains, “to reach herd immunity,” almost all the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated, and that includes children. Moreover, while most children have mild or asymptomatic cases, “some can develop severe illness” and even asymptomatic children can infect at-risk adults. As the WHO guidelines state, the Pfizer vaccine is “suitable for use by people aged 12 years and above.”

Yeah, when you lay it out, it sounds pretty selfish. Hard truth. At least we’re donating vaccines to other countries, which makes us sleep a little better at night. But we don’t want our own kids to get MIS-C; we want life to return to normal; and we have cockknockers like Majorie Taylor Greene and Young Americans for Liberty refusing to mask up or get vaccinated. People in other, saner parts of the world are begging for vaccinations. Our doses are going bad while we try to give them away with free pizzas at local shopping malls. For a fighting chance at herd immunity, we need to vaccinate adolescents and, eventually, children. Vaccine tourism to the United States is a thing because we are giving out shots like Oprah gives out cars.

So the CDC strategy conflicts which the WHO guidelines, which has led to confusion, which has fed the anti-vax, Q-Anon contingent who still thinks Moderna will turn you into Magneto, and the WHO attempts to update their guidelines have led to more grist for the anti-vax mill.

Let’s lay it out really slowly: no, Karen, the World Health Organization did not tell you not to vaccinate your child. They did not say it was unsafe to vaccinate your child. But the WHO guidelines conflict with CDC guidelines. Scary Mommy says: when in doubt, listen to the CDC.

So vax your tween, Karen.