In a previous essay, I argued that though it must be done very thoughtfully, it is important to share the stories of children who died of COVID. One reason to share these stories is they are true. We should remember these were actual children, not just statistics on a government website.
Additionally, parents may be motivated to vaccinate their children after learning that they are not entirely immune to catastrophic outcomes from the virus. Vaccine advocates have long known the power of pictures and narrative to influence vaccination choices- unfortunately so have dishonest anti-vaxxers. As vaccine-advocate Gregory Travis said, the March of Dimes “plastered pictures of kids in iron lungs everywhere as a way to raise awareness of the impact of polio in children It was powerful and it led directly to an effective vaccine.”
Moreover, recent research showed that “that highlighting factual information about the dangers of communicable diseases can positively impact people’s attitudes to vaccination.” Barring a giant media conspiracy, the news stories of children who die of COVID are all factual. Pediatric vaccination rates are abysmally low, largely because too many parents believe the virus doesn’t impact children at all. Some people don’t want parents to know that the virus can seriously hurt a small percentage of children and that the vaccine is effective at keeping them safe and out of the hospital.
My position, and that of many other doctors, is that sharing stories of deceased children is worthwhile for the sake of keeping more children healthy and alive.
A Different Position
Maybe it’s just me, but as a parent and paediatrician, I think putting up the names & pictures of children who may or may not have died of #Covid19 on social media is crass & undignified. I did not include the link to those tweets out of respect for the children & their families
First of all, let’s take note of some interesting framing here. Dr. Ladhani says that people are sharing “names & pictures of children who may or may not have died of COVID19.” He is saying that some children purported to have died of COVID actually died of other causes. Does he have evidence he has that this is happening on a frequent basis? What exactly does he think is killing these children?
Additionally, Dr. Ladhani said that sharing news stories of children who die of COVID is “crass & undignified.” Does he feel it is crass and undignified to share stories of children who die of cancer or violence? Is it crass and undignified to share stories of adults who died of COVID?
Unfortunately, the UK was one of the last countries with abundant supply to vaccinate its children. The vaccine was made available to children ages 5-11 years just last month. It’s not clear what this extra waiting bought for the UK, beyond mass infection of its children and subsequent closing of its schools.
Though it’s hard to believe, I described previously how mass pediatric infections were a desired outcome by influential people there. For example, a sociologist advising the UK vaccine regulators, Robert Dingwall, said that school closures may, “have an immediate cost in terms of depriving children of the opportunity to acquire immunity to the infection”. He also said, “Given the low risk of Covid for most teenagers, it is not immoral to think that they may be better protected by natural immunity generated through infection than by asking them to take the possible risk of a vaccine”.
Perhaps this is why some people now don’t want to hear about children who died of COVID and why they suggest that something other than the virus is killing them.
One parent who lost her child to COVID saw Dr. Ladhani’s Tweet and disagreed with him. Teresa Sperry was a 10-year old girl from Virginia who died of COVID last year, before she was eligible to be vaccinated. According to her mother, Nicole Sperry, “She loved dancing, singing, drawing, playing in the rain.” She was likely exposed at school as apparently “her classroom job was to take sick classmates to the nurse’s office.” According to a news article about the family.
Last week, the Sperry family, with the help from the Glaser Progress Foundation from Seattle, created the Our Missing Stars foundation.
“Just being able to carry on her compassion for other people, that’s the driving force,” Sperry said.
“We definitely started with our intention of being able to honor Teresa, and not just her, but recognizing hopefully other children that have died from COVID and MIS-C.”
A video on the foundation’s Facebook page shows their commitment to their daughter’s memory and the memory of others.
“COVID took her within five days. The only way this makes sense is if my daughter saves people. I don’t want other people feeling this,” Jeff Sperry said.
The mission of the organization they found is: “Preventing unnecessary deaths by encouraging others to get vaccinated.”
Ms. Sperry saw Dr. Ladhani’s social media post and sought to counter the narrative that sharing the existence of her child and her manner of death was “crass & undignified.” She responded to him by saying,
As a parent of 1 of the children that have died from covid, Im proud her name Teresa is shared. Ive heard from many people that they NOW take covid seriously hearing her story. Same w/children w/cancer or diabetes. We share their names because their name is part of their story.
Jeff and Nicole Sperry don’t want another child to suffer or die for want of a vaccine. It’s astonishing that this desire is controversial.