Dr. Jha to Newsmax: Make Same Effort on COVID Shots as Used for Polio

The same strategy used for vaccinating children to protect them from polio should be used when getting them vaccinated against COVID-19, as both diseases carry risk factors for “devastating” illness, Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said on Newsmax Friday. 

“Polio is an obviously horrible disease for kids,” Jha told Newsmax’s “Wake Up America.” “Everybody was excited when we got the vaccine, but if you actually look at the numbers from polio, 75% of kids who got infected were totally asymptomatic. Another 24% had essentially very, very mild symptoms and recovered, and the recovery rate was well over 99%.”

However, there was not a huge backlash against the polio vaccine like there is now with the COVID-19 vaccine, said Jha, echoing his statements from an opinion piece he wrote for The Washington Post.

“We didn’t say, it’s no big deal. 99% of kids get better,” said Jha. “What we said was look, it’s for the small proportion of kids for whom it’s devastating. It’s a really bad disease, and we should vaccinate everybody and we did, and that should be our strategy for COVID.”

Jha further pointed out that there are significant differences between the COVID vaccine and the shots for polio, and that the COVID shot is much safer. 

“The polio vaccine was an inactivated virus and that’s much riskier,” said Jha. “There were kids who actually got polio from the vaccine.”

But over the years, vaccine technology has improved and inactivated viruses are no longer used, Jha said.

“I mean, there are some vaccines out in India and other places that do but the American vaccines do not do that,” said Jha. “These vaccines are much, much safer than the polio vaccine was, and that’s actually really important, and it makes it that much more compelling than we should vaccinate kids because we have these very safe vaccines.” 

Jha also on Friday said he does believe that as children ages 5-11 become vaccinated, lifting school mask mandates makes a lot of sense. 

“It’ll take four to six weeks to get kids their shots,” said Jha. “After that, I think lifting mask mandates makes a lot of sense. Now if you’re in a few of the communities where there may be a horrible surge, it would make sense to just wait a few more weeks, but certainly, as we get into the new year. I expect most mask mandates to be lifted in most schools across the country. “

Meanwhile, measles has been making a resurgence, and Jha said that part of the reason for that is the efforts to eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic have taken precedence. 

“One of the reasons we care deeply about getting this pandemic under control is not just to prevent people getting sick from this, but to keep the health care system functioning,” said Jha. “I’ve been really worried about the spillover effects of this virus on taking care of kids and people.”

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