A dozen local doctors, and a nearly matching number of local yeshivos, sponsored a free Zoom presentation this past Monday, given by Dr. Paul Offit, a renowned authority on children’s immunizations. Nearly two years into the coronavirus pandemic, there are millions of Americans who refuse to be vaccinated, despite evidence that doing so can keep people out of the emergency room.

“If you have been vaccinated by two doses, you have dramatically reduced your chances of being hospitalized, or going to the ICU, or going to the morgue,” he said. “All ages benefit from vaccination.”

Offit serves as the director of the Vaccine Education Center and professor of pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Having experienced the pain of childhood isolation among polio patients, Offit was inspired to become a pediatrician and developed the rotavirus vaccine against childhood diarrhea that is prevalent among developing countries.

Recognizing that coronavirus is not going away, Offit compared it to influenza, which requires a vaccine every year, and polio, where the number of positive cases in the developed world was quickly brought down to nearly none as a result of childhood vaccinations.

Sharing data, Offit noted that at the end of last month, 62 percent of the population in this country had been vaccinated, with 73 percent receiving at least one dose. Overlapping into these numbers are the 100 million people who survived the infection. “Combining the immunity induced by disease with that induced by immunization, at least 80 percent of the US population is protected against the disease.”

To achieve herd immunity, Offit said that 90 percent of the population would have to be vaccinated, which is 40 million people who have not received the shot.

Offit then argued against common misconceptions about vaccines that contribute to the public opposition. Concerning that children are less likely to suffer from the pandemic, Offit shared data that a tenth of patients hospitalized for the virus are children, with two-thirds of them having underlying problems such as chronic lung disease or obesity.

“What those children shared in common was that none of them were vaccinated, nor were their parents, nor were their siblings,” he said of his recent patients.

Concerning the myth that the vaccine decreases fertility, Offit shared an article that he wrote that noted that in trials conducted for the vaccine, there were no negative effects on pregnant patients.

In regard to hearsay that the vaccine alters a person’s DNA, Offit pointed out that the vaccine is unable to penetrate into the nucleus of a person’s cell and does not have reverse transcription RNA that would enable it to have such power.

Among parents listening to the lecture, there were a few who asked whether this vaccine can end the pandemic, the need to continue masking after vaccination, and whether specialists such as the speaker can be trusted. Offit pointed out that his children are vaccinated and that he takes pride in his work. “You can’t make a case to parents that you have to vaccinate their child to protect another child. The case you must make to parents is that they have to vaccinate their child to protect their child.”

Considering the historical sense of this pandemic, he noted the scale of the prevention effort. “There are no long-term side effects. This is the largest vaccination program in the history of humankind. There are three and a half billion people who have been fully vaccinated, there are nine billion doses out there. We know what we need to know about these vaccines.”

 By Sergey Kadinsky