Dr Tim Devine makes several impassioned statements in his letter (September 8) about COVID-19 lockdowns and vaccinating children.
I am certain that his arguments are well intended and heartfelt. But they contain substantial inaccuracies. He is writing with the authority of a medical practitioner, so it is important to correct the record.
There is no doubt that lockdowns, border closures and other restrictions have substantial adverse mental health and economic effects. But compared to what? Doing nothing?
Serious research has found that countries with early border closures and lockdowns (including Australia) suffered fewer deaths, less economic damage, and less curtailment of freedoms than countries with a laxer approach.
In Australia, around 1,100 people have died from COVID-19. The UK with 2.7 times the population has experienced 120 times as many deaths.
My clinical colleagues in Toronto, Canada worked in a tent hospital for months, and American hospitals rented refrigerated trucks to hold the extra bodies. Cemeteries ran out of space. People don’t need to be told to stay home during an out-of-control epidemic. Fear will keep them there.
Dr Devine calls the protection from COVID-19 vaccines ‘weak and short-lived’. That is untrue. The protection against serious illness from the Delta variant after full vaccination is 80–90 per cent and declines by around three per cent each month. Some people will need booster doses. That is far superior to any influenza vaccine.
If a pill provided this protection against serious illness the queues would be very long. The largest study of COVID-19 vaccine safety was published on August 27 in the UK. The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines appear roughly equivalent in terms of serious adverse effects (including very rare blood clots) and both are far safer for you than infection by the virus.
But Dr Devine is right to question the morality of vaccinating young children to protect adults. If it were that clear cut, I would agree with him. But it is too early to make a judgment about the benefits and harms of COVID-19 vaccines in children. It may well be that, with evolving coronavirus variants, we will vaccinate children to protect children.