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A Minute with Marschall

LET’S PROTECT OUR CHILDREN

October 4th, 2021

For decades, children’s vaccines have been a routine requirement at the start of every school year. Unfortunately, there’s nothing routine about this year.

As a physician, I was heartbroken to read that 250,000 children have tested positive for COVID-19 as schools have reopened and nearly 30,000 children were admitted to hospitals over the past year (Aug. 2020 – Aug. 2021) due to this virus, according to an updated New York Times article.  

All this, despite the fact that children age 12 and up are authorized to receive the vaccine. Still, too many parents are rejecting this proven protection.

In Michigan our COVID-19 vaccination rates for those under 18 need to be significantly higher if we are going to make a dent in the spread of this disease. According to the state of Michigan database, 33% of children 12-15 and 41% of those 16-19 have been fully vaccinated.

This pandemic, which is straining our health system, is both frustrating and unnecessary. The underlying condition we are battling is not a medical issue but misinformation. Sadly, too many accept false claims on social media about COVID-19 vaccines as fact while the evidence shows that the vaccines are safe and effective.

More than 3.6 billion people have been vaccinated around the world, with relatively few complications. Vaccinated people are far less likely to contract and spread the virus. Coupled with other proven strategies – including wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing – vaccination provides the best chance for us to stay healthy – not to mention helping us guard the health of patients in our care. 

Although it goes by a single name, COVID-19 encompasses a broad range of evolving viruses. That’s because viruses don’t just infect cells; they hijack them to make more copies of themselves. This is why we get sicker until our immune system recognizes the intruder and mounts a defense. Vaccines work because they give our bodies a head start in this fight.

Viruses don’t always make perfect copies of themselves. These imperfections are called mutations and, as Darwin taught us, those that help the organism survive are more likely to be passed on. That is the case with COVID-19 which has spawned thousands of known variants. The vast majority of these have little consequence in spreading the disease, but a few do. The Delta variant, now the most common strain in the U.S., can replicate itself much faster than the original strain, allowing it to make people sicker faster and transmit between people at higher rates.

The good news is that the current vaccines appear to be effective against these new strains. Although there have been breakthrough cases in which the vaccinated have gotten COVID-19, almost all those hospitalized are unvaccinated.

Although children infected with COVID-19 remain less likely to develop life-threatening illnesses than older Americans, some are dying from the virus. Even when asymptomatic, children infected with COVID-19 can transmit the disease to their loved ones.

The science demands that we vaccinate as many people as possible to stay ahead of a moving target.

To protect our children, as well as ourselves, our patients and families and society at large we should require that everyone 12 and up be vaccinated, unless they have valid medical or religious exceptions. And when approved for younger children, they too should be vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccine should become as routine as the shots children receive to guard against measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox and other diseases.

Do you agree? What are your concerns about this controversial topic? Share with us in the discussion box below.

56 Comments

  • Great blog! But I am concerned that the NY Times is sometimes unreliable (they just published a retraction on Oct. 8 in which they overestimated COVID cases by 800%!). I would stick to the CDC. And how many of the 30,000 children mentioned are over the age of 12 and eligible for vaccines? One third? I am also concerned that many of these children are admitted for unrelated health problems and are only aware of their covid status once tested. I am concerned that an experimental warp speed gene therapy drug would be considered for a population in which the benefit/side-effect ratio is nearly zero. I am concerned that side effects of the shots are being underreported even though recipients are enrolled in an experiment. I am concerned that this is a leaky vaccine which does not stop the virus in its tracks (it merely reduces symptoms…which children barely have), and yet our leaders perpetuate the myth that we can stop the pandemic by vaccinating DURING the pandemic (a risky endeavor which creates high probability for perpetual mutant strains). I am concerned about the lack of at-home treatments being offered. What happened to “go to your doctor, get medicine, go home, get natural immunity?” We did this with every rhinovirus and respiratory virus in history. I am also concerned with the lack of preventative treatment being offered. Vitamin C, D, sunshine, exercise and Zinc should be mentioned in every covid report on every news channel so that our children don’t catch covid in the first place. I am concerned that my kids already get 70 vaccines before they are 18 years old. Do we really want to give them an additional 18? How much can I fool my child’s immune system before it short-circuits and causes auto-immune issues? I look forward to you addressing my concerns. Let’s keep talking!

    • You are correct, Joel. When I first published this blog there was an error in the data, and that has since been corrected. Sorry for the confusion. I agree that the natural preventative measures all make sense, and we should continue with vitamins, exercise and getting outdoors when we can. However, I think the best weapon against this extremely contagious virus is the vaccine. Thanks for your feedback.

      • I respect the freedom of all citizens to freely choose which medical interventions they receive, based on an informed conscience. But I also resonate with many of the concerns surfaced above. I wonder why health systems seem to be singularly focused on vaccines, as opposed to things like natural immunity, nutrition, and chemoprophylaxis. Would you be willing to do a blog on those? When we are speaking of healthy children, specifically, what is the risk that covid19 poses to them, when measured against the risks associated with the available vaccines? That would be a good blog topic as well. Would you be willing to discuss what we are seeing in VAERS, especially myocarditis in children and some demographics of men? Do we know the long term effects of the current vaccines on female fertility? These are all important topics for medical experts to discuss and make plain for the masses to understand. It is so disappointing to see questions like these brushed aside and even mischaracterized as “spreading misinformation”. Such mischaracterizations are an affront to honest medical science.

        • Thank you for your feedback. Unfortunately, since I wrote this we are experiencing another COVID-19 surge, and even more upsetting is that our pediatric admissions, normally limited to a few cases, has hit double-digits with this new upswing. Yes, it is true that children infected with COVID-19 are less likely to develop life-threatening illnesses than older Americans, but as our numbers show, some are experiencing life-threatening symptoms and even dying from the virus. I agree we should consider how diet, vitamins, exercise and other healthy natural habits help support resistance and recovery from this virus. However, I still contend, along with our scientific and medical community, that vaccines are safe and effective, are a compliment to preventative measures managed through a healthy lifestyle, and the best weapon we have against this pandemic. When I talked about misinformation, I am referring to false claims, conspiracy theories, and incorrect information about treatments and vaccine risks. At Michigan Medicine, we are very transparent about our hospital admissions related to COVID and you can see graphs and dashboards at https://www.uofmhealth.org/covid-19-update.

  • I totally agree vaccines should be mandated. I also think masks should be mandated in schools until our kids can be vaccinated. I’m in a tough spot right now, my 6 yr old daughter is in a school with no mask mandate and I’m nervous that hardly any of the kids except a couple wear masks. I requested to switch to virtual after I saw barely any kids wearing masks but they have passed me to several different people and still haven’t heard back. They demanded she come back to school bc I had her out thinking they could honor my request to switch to virtual but they don’t have it available and it’s through another district and they say it’s too late to enroll. I’m at a loss on how to proceed and I feel stuck risking my daughters health (she has asthma). They have politicized this and refuse to listen to doctors.

    • I am sorry to hear that your 6-year-old must attend a school with no mask mandate. It’s also disappointing that you do not have a virtual option. I do agree there is too much politicizing of this vaccine, and other preventative measures. I can only suggest that, if you do decide to return her to the school district, that you continue to send her to school with a mask and follow all other protective protocols, even if the other children are not. Thank you for your support of the science-based solutions.

    • Thank you for bringing this up, Bridgette. When I first published this blog there was an error in the data, and that has since been corrected. Sorry for the confusion.

  • Love every word!

  • First off, I don’t trust what the New York Times post. I feel that children are MORE likely to get hurt from this so called “Vaccine” more like “Gene therapy” than the virus itself. Children are more likely to be admitted with myocarditis/cardiac issues after “vaccine” than being admitted with Covid. The “shot” does not prevent against this “virus”.
    This is brand new technology. There have not been long term studies on children. This is experimental.
    There is no safety data monitoring board. Where is the monthly safety reports since this has started?
    Per the Vaers report as of September there were 15,937 DEATHS from the VACCINE
    The CDC states there are greater than 20,000 people who are PERMANENTLY DISABLED after the ” COVID VACCINE”.
    IF this is not proven to be safe for adults why should we force this on our children.
    Multiple experts are saying that these “Covid vaccines are not safe”.
    How many children have been admitted to our hospital in the past month?
    How many children have died due the Covid Virus in our hospital (that didn’t have a terminal diagnosis)? in Michigan?
    I don’t like that the Media, white house is pushing this so called “vaccine”.
    Please listen to Dr. Peter McCullough

    • I appreciate that you have read my blog and you are passionate enough about this issue to share your views with us. Even though we are in disagreement, I believe conversation and debate about this topic is healthy. At Michigan Medicine, we share information about our hospital admissions related to COVID and you can see graphs and dashboards at https://www.uofmhealth.org/covid-19-update

  • Protecting children is prime among the very distressing concerns the avoidance of vaccines. Clearly, those causing vaccine reluctance have not experienced the overwhelming challenge of telling a parent their child is dying – and that is even more horrific when the death is preventable. The lack of awareness or respect for the health of our society as a whole is so troubling as is the reluctance of our citizens to understand public health science. As a nurse I have cared for patients with a variety of communicable diseases over the years and now many of those diseases are preventable due to amazing vaccine advances. Just phenomenal to compare the population of hospitalized pediatric patients from just a few decades ago to the present population – total absence of some of the tragic illnesses that were so common just a few years ago. Indelible in my memory is taking care of the last child to die of measles in Michigan. Thank you for addressing this heartbreaking rejection of vaccines.

    • Gwen, thank you for your insights in this topic through your perspective as a nurse. I wish all could see and understand the full ramifications of this disease when we remain unprotected, or, as parents, don’t allow our children to become protected. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • i am in total agreement that the shot should be routine for the protection of all children. Parents in the past has never had a problem with the protection of previous vaccinations that were required for school age children.

    Politics must be left out of this pandemic.

  • I agree, the vaccines are proven safe and effective, and I believe those of us in healthcare should spread that message. I do, however, disagree that they should be required. I believe that providing someone with accurate information and allowing them to make the decision about their own body, or their children’s body, is the proper way forward. The decision should ultimately be up to the informed individual.

    • Thank you, Chris, for continuing to share the accurate, science-based information. Although we may disagree on the mandate, I respect your opinion and appreciate that you took the time to read and respond to my blog.

  • Thank you, Dr. Runge for this informative and very rational message. It is extremely important that we begin to try to neutralize this ocean of mis-information. How do we restore trust in the science of medicine? As a grandmother of grandchildren too young to receive the vaccine, I am very concerned. I am also extremely frightened about the world that my grandchildren will inherit, if the even greater problem of mis-information and distrust in science and our institutions is not restored.

    • Thank you, Trish, for your comments. I do agree that this misinformation can erode trust in our health care institutions. However, I have to remain hopeful that if we share our knowledge and expertise to our patients, families and the community, we can continue to fight both the misinformation and this virus. Your message, and those of others, help me to remain hopeful!

  • Mika Phillips, BSN, RN

    ABSOLUTELY AGREE!!

    This misinformation is spreading just as fast as covid. Knowledge IS Power, so why remain weak?

    At every available chance I push the message, “Get Vaccinated or Get Dead!”

    • Mika, thanks for sharing the message of the power of both the vaccine and science-based information. Connecting with others about this message will help us win the battle.

  • I fully agree with everything Dr. Runge wrote in this piece. Getting through to those holding strong to political and ideological tribalism won’t be easy. Maybe we need to bring back public service announcements showing that segment of the conservative population promoting vaccinations. Who knows, maybe it could work.

    • I agree with you, Matthew. This won’t be easy. Although media campaigns can do a lot to share the message, personal conversations with others in the community can really be a way to win minds and hearts, one at a time. While we continue to share data and panel discussions via social media, I encourage you to continue to personally share your expertise with others. Thank you.

  • I cannot agree enough on this nicely summarized message. Getting vaccinated helps and protects us. The message cannot get any simpler or more straight forward

  • I believe until a child is legally able to make their own choices getting a vaccination is the decision of the parent. I do not believe in mandatory vaccination. This removes a person’s rights to decide their own healthcare. I also believe the mandatory vaccination for employees needs to be fought in court. When a vaccination is mandatory for an employee who works at home with no requirement to come to any building at the hospital or on campus it’s not about employee or patient safety. It’s all about control.

    • Thank you, Roseanne, for reading and responding to my blog. Although we disagree on the mandate, I respect your opinion and the right to voice it. Regarding the mandate for our employees, I believe it is in the best interests of our employees, our patients, and other visitors to our health care system. Even though we require it for all employees, including those who are remote, we do not consider this a decision about “control.” This is a decision that was made across the entire organization because we believe, based on the science, that this is the best decision for everyone’s health and safety.

  • Thank you for tackling this !! Hearing directly from the leadership is so important for so many employees.
    Regards

    • Thank you for your feedback. I know this can be controversial, but I felt it was important to speak out and I am glad you appreciate it.

  • Absolutely agree. I also think unvaccinated people should not be allowed to have Monoclonal antibodies if they do contract Covid. If they think the vaccine (which costs $20 and protects self and others) is too controversial, then they should be consistent and say Monoclonal antibodies (which are 100 times more expensive and only treat the patient) are too controversial as well. I wonder when insurance companies are going to start charging higher premiums to unvaccinated people. I am so incredibly sad that there are so many people in our country that cannot grasp public health guidelines and are too selfish to do something as simple as get a free vaccine that benefits the common good.

    • Thank you for your comments, Sandra. I’m glad we are allies when it comes to vaccinating children. Regarding the antibodies, we approach ethical health care delivery as providing the services that our patients need, without contingencies. I appreciate you reading and responding to my blog.

  • I agree. Thanks so much for your eloquent discussion on this.

  • I agree that the COVID-19 vaccine should become as routine as other shots for measles, mumps, rubella and other diseases. Vaccinations have allowed us to reduce the spread or eradicate some of these diseases. I don’t think that anyone would want to go back to the days of Poliomyelitis. We don’t hear of polio outbreak cases here in the U.S.A. This was made possible because of the effective immunization campaigns within the United States and worldwide. The same should apply to the COVID-19 outbreak, especially since it does not seem to be going away without a fight.

    • Hi Maria. I agree with you completely. People often forget about the benefits we have experienced from vaccines in the past. Thanks for your feedback.

  • Yes!! Thank you. Unfortunately, not all of the department managers at Michigan Medicine seem to agree with you. I know one in particular that seems to be making it easier for those in her department who are seeking an exemption and more difficult on those who are vaccinated. Also, when one asks a question about it, they get reprimanded by her. The incentive should be to get the vaccine, not the opposite. It’s very discouraging that those leading our departments believe this misinformation, choose to put others at risk and basically reward others for doing the same.

    • Sarah I am glad you agree with my point of view, but disappointed to hear that a manager may not be treating employees equitably. I would encourage any of those team members who feel uncomfortable with this situation to escalate their concerns through their local chain of command. Other options include contacting your department’s HR partner or the compliance hotline to share their concerns. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  • Hi Dr. Runge, I admit that your data is concerning but in the article it is clearly stated “…but children continue to account for the fewest new hospitalizations of any group.” It also clarifies in detail that “children remain markedly less likely than adults, especially older adults to be hospitalized or die from covid-19.” I admit that I am not entirely familiar with this subject but perhaps there is an issue with in the terminology “entering the hospital”. Does that mean they were seen then sent home? In which case they were possibly deemed far less of a health concern than that of older adults? I’m fascinated with this subject and would love to learn more from an expert such as yourself! I appreciate the blog and all the amazing work you do!

    Thanks!

    • Thanks, Simon, for taking the time to read and respond to my blog. Yes, it is true that children are less likely to be hospitalized, but even though they represent a smaller percentage, the trend of hospitalization rates for children has increased. Even if the numbers were lower, it is disheartening to hear that any children are sick or dying when a vaccine could have prevented it.

  • Agreed. Thanks for speaking out. As leader of Michigan Medicine, a very public stand on this critical issue could be very effective; I urge you to consider addressing the public directly.

    • Thank you, Miriam. I did in fact share an opinion, similar to this blog, through Crain’s Detroit Business. The link is Commentary: It’s time to insist everyone over 12 be vaccinated | Crain’s Detroit Business (crainsdetroit.com). But I believe all of us can help to share the message with the public by having one-on-one conversations with those we serve in the community. We can often change minds that way, even if it is only one at a time.

  • I do agree, the issue is the many who don’t agree. I believe the hesitation for many has a lot to do with the misinformation that’s floating around out there, but also many people don’t understand that COVID-19 is in the SARS family and research has been ongoing on SARS for a long time. It would be nice to maybe post in the Minute with Marschall Blog or present at a Town Hall some information around the History of the SARS Virus and the research that has been done in relation to COVID-19 and how the vaccination was able to be created as quickly as it was. Just thinking more concrete and direct information around this topic could help others with their hesitations. Thank you!

    • Concrete information is always the best weapon in this war. We have shared many aspects of this virus, but we have not shared from the perspective of SARS history and context. Thank you for your suggestion, LaToya.

  • I am vaccinated. My “children” are now adults but I always made sure they received their vaccines while growing up. That being said, I do understand why some parents are hesitant. Unlike the MMR, Varicella, Tetanus vaccines, the COVID 19 vaccine is still new and even though we are told it is safe, it hasn’t been around long enough to prove that there will be no side effects 5 or more years down the line. As a parent, I too would be concerned about giving my young child such a new vaccine

    • I understand your concerns, Chrissy. I appreciate that you agree with many of us about the importance of protecting your children with vaccines. While the COVID-19 vaccine is new, it is part of the SARS family of viruses, which has been studied extensively in recent years. This might be another consideration for others who may be hesitant to have their children vaccinated. Thank you for your feedback.

  • It’s important to hear such a clear stance from a knowledgeable member of the expert community on this. Thank you for your bravery (although unfortunate that it calls for that when speaking about a topic you are qualified to speak on).

  • The science is very clear and succinctly stated above. We seem to be at an important inflection point of science denial or at least science ambiguity among the general population. Large public research universities like the University of Michigan should lead the way in outreach to provide people with the explanations and knowledge they need to make informed decisions, and should also play a larger role in public health policy advocacy for the State of Michigan.

    • Thank you for sharing your feedback, Glenn. Since the pandemic began, the University of Michigan has refocused many research projects to COVID-19 related science, which may be published in various journals or other outlets. At Michigan Medicine, we have also created a resource of physicians and nurses who are available to advise and answer questions from health care providers across the state about COVID-19 prevention and treatment. Thank you for your support for public health.

  • I completely agree and that these vaccines should be normalized like Chicken pox and Mumps etc. But, I really don’t see this happening with the current state of our Country. Until the misinformation is stopped or at least brought under control this virus will be a everyday part of our lives. Even with kids lives on the line I don’t see people, or the government doing anything about this. Hopefully one day when we are all older, the kids now will be able to look back at this as an example on how not to handle a Pandemic. Thanks for the opportunity hope everyone has a wonderful Monday considering.

    • I agree with you, Joe. It is hard to watch as this misinformation erodes trust with science and the health care industry. I join you in hoping we can look back at this one day with clearer vision and learn from this.

  • “This pandemic, which is straining our health system, is both frustrating and unnecessary. The underlying condition we are battling is not a medical issue but misinformation.”

    I think you hit the nail on the head with that Dr Runge.

  • Thank you for your strong call to action. I am proud to work for Michigan Medicine– where our leadership truly has the health of the community in mind!

    • Thank you so much for those kind words. I do my best to keep the health and safety of our employees and the community foremost in my mind. However, I credit the dedicated work of our employees for keeping our community safe.

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