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EVERYONE CAN GET A SHOT NOW. WILL THEY? The good news: Vaccines for little kids, the last group of Americans waiting on a Covid shot, are here. Many parents of children under 5 scrambled for appointments with pediatricians and local pharmacies today.
The bad news: Once we get through the initial rush of excitement, the vaccination uptake for the youngest Americans is expected to be even lower than the 29 percent of kids 5 to 11 who have received the shots. Nightly called epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina, author of the “Your Local Epidemiologist” newsletter, to talk through why she believes in vaccinating young children, and the hurdles ahead for pediatricians as they work to convince parents. This conversation has been edited.
You’re an epidemiologist, and you’re also a mom of two kids under 3. Why did you decide to get them vaccinated?
I’m with all the other parents trying to scramble to find an appointment for them. But we are going as soon as possible.
This is now a vaccine-preventable disease, specifically against severe disease and death. The other thing was that during the conversations last week, it was incredibly obvious how safe these vaccines are, as well as how effective they are.
What about parents who say, “My kid has already had Covid. Why would they need the vaccine?”
The first thing I always say is that getting your vaccine, even for people who’ve already had Covid, strengthens the immune system. It’s called hybrid immunity, and it’s very protective. It’s very effective for our B-cells, our T-cells, as well as our antibodies.
My girls were infected previously, but a recent study shows that some children actually failed to make antibodies after infection, as well as have mediocre T-cell responses, which is a separate second line of defense. So even if a child is infected, the level of protection isn’t guaranteed.
Kids are less likely to have severe disease. So if a child had a mild infection, which many do, then they’re likely to have a lower viral dose and secondary protection is also less likely.
There’s also discussion about where Covid falls in the rankings of childhood causes of death. What do we know about this, and why is it so difficult to estimate?
It’s incredibly challenging. There was a preprint that we were discussing on Twitter that showed that, if we add up all cumulative deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, Covid lands among the 4th or 5th leading causes of death for kids under 5.
The challenge is that we haven’t had a year in which we have a “normal life” with Covid, where we don’t have restrictions and we’re not trying to protect our kids. So we don’t know the true toll. So I think the upper bound is the 4 to 5 ranking, and then the lower bound is what we see just in the past 12 months, which is about 6 to 9 ranking.
At least for me as a parent, whether it’s ranked 5th or 8th or 10th or 100th, I will still do so in a heartbeat because this is now a preventable death for my girls. I don’t think we can overstate that.
How concerned are you about uptake in this age group?
The last poll found that about 1 in 5 parents of kids under 5 were going to vaccinate their child right away. Vaccine confidence builds with time. I think that we can build this case for parents as we go.
You seem optimistic that even if just 20 percent of parents get their young kids vaccinated, this will make a difference.
On an individual level, a vaccine in 1 in 5 under-5-year-olds will help protect them substantially.
Is the best messenger for the vaccine still pediatricians?
Pediatricians and physicians remain the most trusted source of information for vaccines for parents. Parents also trust local health departments a lot. They trust schools and day cares a lot, and they trust other parents a great deal as well. This has to be a grassroots network of trusted messengers. We have to equip our trusted messengers with evidence-based information, to get to parents, to talk to them, to answer their questions from a place of empathy.
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— Senate unveils bipartisan gun safety bill: Senators released the long-awaited text of their bipartisan gun safety bill today, setting up a possible floor vote on final passage by the end of the week. The four lead negotiators — Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) — said the legislation would “protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country.” The publication of legislative text marks a significant step forward for the gun safety package, which would amount to Congress’ most significant response to mass shootings in nearly 30 years.
— Rep. Henry Cuellar clinches Dem primary win: Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar has survived the toughest threat yet to his 17-year reign as South Texas political royalty, beating back a challenge from progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros after a lengthy recount of the May 24 primary vote. Cuellar, the last House Democrat to oppose abortion rights, came into 2022 in a precarious position. He faced an FBI raid of his home just days before the March 1 primary, which ended with him being forced into the first runoff of his career. Then, the one-on-one contest with Cisneros was upended by the Supreme Court’s preparations to overturn Roe v. Wade, which put the spotlight on Cuellar’s position on abortion.
— Uvalde police could have ended rampage early on, Texas top cop says: Police had enough officers and firepower on the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to have stopped the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, and they would have found the door to the classroom where he was holed up unlocked if they had bothered to check it, Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety testified today, pronouncing the law enforcement response an “abject failure.”
— Court strikes down Maine law barring state funds for religious education: The Supreme Court has broadened the rights of parents and students to use government subsidies to attend religious schools, striking down a Maine program that barred the use of local government funds to pay tuition at primary and high schools providing religious instruction. Ruling 6-3 today, the high court said prohibiting parents from using such subsidies for schools engaging in religious teaching violated the religious freedom rights of students and their parents. Under the Maine “tuitioning” program the court struck down, local governments lacking the population to run schools at a certain grade level typically pay for students to be educated at public or private schools of their choice. But, to avoid government funds being used for religious purposes, since 1981 the program has refused to pay for schools providing religious education.
— Twitter’s board urges shareholders to approve Musk takeover bid: The board “unanimously recommends that you vote [for] the adoption of the merger agreement,” it urged in a new SEC filing. The filing adds that Twitter’s board believes the merger is “fair to, advisable and in the best interests of Twitter and its stockholders.”
‘THE SYSTEM HELD, BUT BARELY’ — A top aide to Sen. Ron Johnson attempted to arrange a handoff of false, pro-Trump electors from the senator to Mike Pence just minutes before the then-vice president began to count electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021, write Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney.
The aide, Sean Riley, told Pence’s legislative director Chris Hodgson that Johnson wanted to hand Pence lists of the fake electors from Michigan and Wisconsin for Pence to introduce during the counting of electoral votes that certified Joe Biden’s win. The attempt was revealed in text messages obtained by the Jan. 6 select committee during its fourth public hearing today.
“Do not give that to him,” Hodgson replied.
The attempted handoff shows just how much former President Donald Trump and his allies tried to lean on Pence to introduce false slates of electors that could have thrown the 2020 election from Biden to Trump. The committee laid out an intense pressure campaign, led primarily by Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani, to push state legislatures to appoint pro-Trump electors and override the will of voters in their states.
In video and live testimony, state legislative leaders in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan — all Republicans — described repeated, sometimes daily pressure from Trump and his allies in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Michigan State Senate leader Mike Shirkey recalled in video testimony how, after Trump tweeted out his phone number, he received thousands of messages from Trump supporters asking him to appoint Michigan’s electors through the legislature.
Under Trump’s plan, Pence would be presented with competing slates of electors — the official results certified by the governors and those certified by state legislators — and he would assert the extraordinary power to choose which slates to count. But no state legislature responded to Trump’s demand, and Pence, without any genuine controversy, rejected the scheme as illegal.
“The system held, but barely,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in his opening remarks.
A DIFFERENT GARLAND PROSECUTION — Attorney General Merrick Garland made an unannounced visit to Ukraine to discuss U.S. and international efforts to prosecute war crimes resulting from Russia’s invasion.
Appearing alongside Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova today, Garland expressed “the unwavering support of the United States for the people of Ukraine” amid “an unprovoked and unjust Russian invasion.” He spoke from the Ukrainian-Polish border crossing at Krakovets, in western Ukraine, Quint Forgey writes.
Garland also announced the launch of a War Crimes Accountability Team to be led by Eli Rosenbaum, whom the attorney general tapped to serve as counselor for war crimes accountability, according to a Justice Department news release.
OPINION: ‘MIKE PENCE IS NO HERO’ — Shall we crown Mike Pence in hero’s laurel and salute him for his Jan. 6 decision to uphold the Constitution? Was it really such an act of bravery for Pence to patiently listen to the legal advice of Trump and his B-team attorney John Eastman to deny Joe Biden the presidency, only to ultimately rebuff their guidance and do the right thing?
Pence is less a hero than he is a tragic figure whose flaws undid him, writes Jack Shafer. His desire for political power led him to support Trump and then toady to him for four years no matter what he did. Even now, when it’s abundantly apparent that Trump attempted to undo the peaceful transfer of power and effectively endorsed his veep’s murder, Pence holds his silence, declining the Jan. 6 committee’s invitation to testify and avoiding the subject on the political hustings except to say he thinks he did the right thing. Just last week, POLITICO’s Adam Wren noted on Twitter, reporters tried to ask Pence Jan. 6 questions during an Ohio energy roundtable. His aides escorted him out of the room. A genuine hero would speak the truth, no matter the consequences. Imagine the stories Pence could tell under oath about the week of Jan. 6 if even a microgram of the heroic lurked in his soul.
What to make of Pence’s timidity? The best explanation might be his presidential ambitions, sketched out by the Wall Street Journal last week. The Republican Party is still in thrall to Trump, and if Pence wants any chance of winning the GOP nomination in 2024, he can’t fully break with the leader of the cult. Perhaps he thinks this middle path will provide a viable path to the presidency, but it’s just as likely he’ll infuriate voters on both sides of the aisle.
Pence did the right thing on Jan. 6, but it didn’t make him a hero. Please cancel the parade.
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