Not long ago, Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier, the Higginson Professor of Physiology and Medicine, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, and Former Dean of the Faculty of Medicine (2007- 2016) posted a provocative Tweet.



Dr. Flier linked to an article by Dr. Vinay Prasad, whose anti-vaccine misinformation  has been discussed here many times previously. Dr. Prasad’s article said:



We don’t need to read beyond this to have enough material for robust discussion and debate.

  • First, should the COVID vaccine be part of the routine vaccination schedule for kids?  I sure think so. Babies have the highest risk of all children and they don’t arrive with natural immunity. Over 750 children younger than 4-years have died of COVID and many thousands more have been hospitalized, some needing intubation in the ICU. (Dr. Prasad didn’t mention any of these sad facts in his article.) Meanwhile, there is evidence the vaccine is safe and effective for our youngest children. As such, I think all infants should be vaccinated when they are eligible. I think zero children should suffer or die for lack of a COVID vaccine. Does Dr. Flier have a different number that he’d like to defend in a debate?
  • Second, Dr. Prasad claimed that polio and measles are “truly dangerous” for children while COVID is not. It may be true that an individual child with polio or measles is at more risk than a child with COVID, but SARS-CoV-2 is what has been infecting children for the past three years, in case you haven’t noticed. More American children died of COVID many weeks of the pandemic than died of measles and polio combined my entire life. While over 2,000 children have died of COVID, a number that would have been much higher had none been vaccinated, no children died from measles or polio during the pandemic. In fact, measles last killed American children in 1990-1991, when 9 died, and no American children have died of polio in my lifetime. As such, I think that COVID has been more dangerous for children than measles and polio for the past three years. Of course, all three viruses are “truly dangerous” for children, and I believe all children should receive all recommended vaccines. Dr. Flier is welcome to argue the viruses that killed zero children are “truly dangerous” compared to the one that killed 2,000 children and that we should only vaccinate children against the viruses that killed zero children. He said this was “quite reasonable”.
  • Third, Dr. Prasad claims that encouraging the COVID vaccine will decrease uptake in the MMR and polio vaccines. I disagree. I’ve been studying and writing about the anti-vaccine movement long before the pandemic, and I am confident that misinformation about the COVID vaccine will decrease confidence in all vaccines. There’s already data from Florida showing this to be the case. Anti-vaxxers know this as well, and they spot an opportunity. This is why they amplify the words of Dr. Prasad, who said pediatric vaccine advocates were “off their rocker” and indifferent to tragedies of the mentally ill. After all, if these cruel, psychotic doctors can’t be trusted when they recommend the COVID vaccine, how can they be trusted when they suggest other vaccines?  Dr. Flier is welcome to argue that the polio/MMR vaccines are in competition with the COVID vaccine and there can only be one winner.

I previously responded to Dr. Flier that I would be happy to discuss and debate these topics with him. In fact, I’d be happy to discuss and debate any aspect of Dr. Prasad’s article he chooses. Nothing in it made the case that it’s safer for babies to contract COVID than get vaccinated. Yet, even though Dr. Flier said we had a “responsibility” to do “discuss and debate” Dr. Prasad’s sophistry, I didn’t hear back from him. If that changes, I will post an update here.

However, if Dr. Flier continues to run away from his own invitation to discuss and debate whether or not unvaccinated babies should be left vulnerable SARS-CoV-2, let’s be clear about what his Tweet actually was- an empty, performative gesture that allowed him to signal he was “heterodox”, which itself spread misinformation in two important ways.

First, Dr. Flier’s Tweet spread the illusion there’s been no discussion and debate about vaccinating children. This is absurd. Many people have been discussing and debating this, even before vaccines were even available for children. I’ve written volumes on this topic. Moreover, just days before Dr. Flier’s Tweet, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices held one of many public meetings regarding the pediatric COVID vaccine. They discussed. They debated.  Either Dr. Flier was totally unaware of this, or he feigned ignorance to convince people that proper discussion and debate hadn’t taken place prior to Dr. Prasad’s article.

Of course, vaccines weren’t authorized for children willy-nilly. There were 6 pediatric RCTs (5 of which have been published in NEJM) involving nearly 25,000 children, and the safety/efficacy of the vaccine has been monitored closely in the real-world ever since in many dozens of studies. If anything, regulators acted with excessive “caution” before authorizing vaccines for children. There was a real price to be paid for leaving so many children vulnerable to the Delta and Omicron variants. We’ll be learning about the consequences of repeated infections in developing children for the rest of our careers.

Second, Dr. Flier’s Tweet misled some readers into thinking there was still genuine scientific disagreement about whether unvaccinated children should get COVID or not. There’s not. Pediatricians from his own medical school have done an excellent job explaining why. Dr. Kristin Moffitt for example, told her readers the basic facts Dr. Prasad aims to obscure. She wrote in November 2021:

While children continue to be much less likely than adults — especially adults 65 and older — to get severely ill from COVID-19, some children do get very sick. Thousands of children 5 to 11 have been hospitalized or need ICU-level support to recover from this infection. Almost 150 children in this age range have died from COVID-19. Additionally, over 5,000 cases of a serious inflammatory condition known as MIS-C that can follow COVID-19 infection have been reported. The majority of cases of MIS-C have occurred in children in this age range.

Unlike Dr. Prasad, Dr. Moffitt also informed her readers that in the randomized-controlled trial of the vaccine for this age group. She write, “Out of 19 documented cases, most had received the placebo shots. Estimates suggest the efficacy rate of the vaccine is 90%”.  There are now over 20 studies showing the vaccine has already protected many children from COVID’s worst harms.  They all say things like this:

Of the case patients, 180 (40%) were admitted to the ICU, and 127 (29%) required life support; only 2 patients in the ICU had been fully vaccinated. The overall effectiveness of the BNT162b2 vaccine against hospitalization for Covid-19 was 94%. The effectiveness was 98% against ICU admission and 98% against Covid-19 resulting in the receipt of life support. All 7 deaths occurred in patients who were unvaccinated.

Another article from Harvard said:

“I hear parents say, oh, my kid had COVID last year,” said co-senior investigator Adrienne Randolph, HMS professor of anaesthesia and of pediatrics at Boston Children’s. “But we found that antibodies children produced during prior infections don’t neutralize omicron. This means that unvaccinated children are still susceptible to omicron”…

“With the emergence of omicron, vaccination offers children and teens better protection against COVID-19,” said Randolph.

It’s true that anti-vaccine data manipulators like Dr. Joseph Ladapo and the sheltered, contrarian doctors who defend his fraud have confused parents by creating the pretense of widespread disagreement amongst doctors. However pediatricians– the doctors who actually care for sick children- are in near uniform agreement on the matter. Perhaps Dr. Flier should talk with someone like Dr. Moffitt or Dr. Randolph before promoting anti-vaccine misinformation in the future. I’d even go as far as to say it’s his responsibility.



  • Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19. He is the author of "We Want Them Infected: How the failed quest for herd immunity led doctors to embrace the anti-vaccine movement and blinded Americans to the threat of COVID."

Posted by Jonathan Howard

Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19. He is the author of "We Want Them Infected: How the failed quest for herd immunity led doctors to embrace the anti-vaccine movement and blinded Americans to the threat of COVID."