In a recent article for Peste Magazine, I described the origin of a zombie myth spread by contrarian doctors, namely that COVID only kills one a in million children. In reality, this reflected the odds of an elementary school child dying only during the pandemic’s first 7 months. As new variants arrived and protections vanished, more children inevitably died. According to the Coronavirus in Kids (COVKID) Tracking and Education Project, the actual pediatric death rate as of September 2022 ranged from a low of 7.2 per million for 4-year olds to a peak of 91.8 per million for infants. Of course, often the numerator matters more than the denominator. Over 700 children under age 4 years have died of COVID in the US. That’s horrible. Many thousands more were injured by the virus, though grave outcomes in children are very rare outcome fortunately.

However, beyond the fact that this “one a in million” number is both blatantly and tragically false, doctors predictably used it in an inappropriate way to minimize COVID’s impact on children. The fact that we did a decent job of protecting children at the start of the pandemic was used as evidence that children didn’t need protection at all, not even a vaccine.  Doctors who claimed that children didn’t need to be vaccinated against COVID because more children died of some other cause, failed to grasp that our reactively successful efforts to project children in the spring of 2020 was the only reason they could make these ludicrous comparisons.



I’m calling this absurd line of thinking the smoke alarm fallacy after a classic line from The Simpsons, and I’ve been seeing it everywhere lately. Even though forklifts were needed to move corpses into massive trucks when the virus was uncontrolled, the fact that we didn’t let this happen everywhere in the spring of 2020 now allows people who experienced this carnage exclusively from their laptop to claim that “we massively overreacted to COVID“.



Maybe we did.

However, those who make this claim never grapple with what really would have happened had we allowed the virus to spread freely amongst 70 million unvaccinated children in spring 2020. I am confident that had we done nothing to protect them, many more children would have suffered and died from COVID. They also would have helped spread the virus to millions of others, including their teachers and loved ones, none of whom were vaccinated at the time. Anyone who fantasizes things would have been just peachy should be taken as seriously as Homer Simpson.

It is not even debatable.


  • Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist based in New York City who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19.

Posted by Jonathan Howard

Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist based in New York City who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19.