I recognize, with some trepidation, that people may wonder why I feel I need to speak out publicly about vaccines and against my uncle. The truth is, his name and platform mean that his views carry weight. After three hours, his Facebook post accusing government regulators of abdicating their responsibility to protect the public had 4,700 reactions, 2,300 shares and 641 comments.
As a doctor, and as a member of the Kennedy family, I feel I must use whatever small platform I have to state a few things unequivocally. I love my uncle Bobby. I admire him for many reasons, chief among them his decades-long fight for a cleaner environment. But when it comes to vaccines, he is wrong.
Though his Facebook post linked to a dubious source — a website aligned with the Children’s Health Defense organization that publishes conspiratorially tinged stories on “Big Pharma” and “Big Food” — the basic premise was correct: Two U.S. health care workers did suffer allergic reactions, one anaphylactic, the other more mild, to a Covid vaccine.
The story’s headline ended with the question, “How Many More Are at Risk?” An anaphylactic reaction to a vaccine is a serious matter, no question. But it does not necessarily signal that the wider public is at risk. The Pfizer vaccine was administered to more than 20,000 participants in clinical trials; 15,000 participants received the Moderna vaccine. Both trials concluded that the vaccines were safe.
As Dr. Fauci said in a CNBC interview on Dec. 16, responding to concerns about adverse vaccine reactions: “Once you decide to dispense the vaccine widely you’re talking about millions and tens of millions and ultimately hundreds of millions of doses. So, you may see reactions that you didn’t see in the clinical trials.”
As of this writing, more than 2.1 million people in the United States have been vaccinated and only 11 have reported a serious allergic reaction. In comparison, a recent study showed 11 percent of all Americans have a food allergy and one quarter of them have been given an epinephrine prescription.
This is normal, and no cause for alarm. Serious side effects of the Covid vaccines have been extraordinarily rare, but health care providers are aware of them, and are responding appropriately by monitoring vaccine recipients, especially those who have a history of allergies.