Republican Sen. Mark Steffen, a Hutchinson area physician, introduced a nonbinding resolution arguing against COVID-19 vaccination of children, in support of natural immunity to the virus and an end to “interference” by government public health officials. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Sen. Mark Steffen introduced a COVID-19 resolution in the Kansas Senate declaring children shouldn’t be compelled to be vaccinated, people who had the virus ought to be exempted from all restrictions and that government needed to cease interfering with physicians recommending unorthodox treatments.
Steffen, a Hutchinson Republican and anesthesiologist who cares for COVID-19 patients, has condemned what he referred to as mainstream medical and political propaganda contributing to unnecessary fatalities during the pandemic. He’s an advocate of state legislation stripping county health directors and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment of power to impose emergency restrictions.
“We will win this vaccine battle. And, we will win the liberal, communist war being waged against us,” Steffen said.
His nonbinding resolution introduced in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on Thursday pushed back against the international effort by governments and medical leaders to deepen vaccination of populations in response to the pandemic. He put forward the resolution at a time when spread of COVID-19 in the United States was sharply escalating and hospitals were under duress from influx of critically ill patients.
“Healthy children should not be subjected to forced vaccination,” Steffen’s said in the resolution. “There are negligible clinical risks from a COVID-19 infection for a healthy child under 18 years of age. The risks to the long-term health of children remain too high.”
Wave of 1,225 fatalities
Steffen, who spoke at a September convention in Lenexa dedicated to ending compulsory vaccinations, said children receiving a COVID-19 shot “risked severe adverse events, including permanent damage to the brain, heart, immune system and reproductive system.”
Since Steffen’s appearance at that Freedom Revival in the Heartland event, Kansas has documented an increase of 221,904 cases of COVID-19, 4,173 additional hospitalizations for the virus and 1,246 more fatalities linked to COVID-19. The latest totals for Kansas: 621,273 cases, 17,624 hospitalizations and 7,162 deaths.
Three Kansas children younger than 10 and three more between the ages of 10 and 17 have died from COVID-19.
Steffen’s perspective on vaccination of children ran counter to recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In early January, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said children ages 5 and older should be vaccinated and adolescents ages 12 to 17 should receive a booster shot five months after the primary series.
“It is critical that we protect our children and teens from COVID-19 infection and the complications of severe disease,” Walensky said. “This booster dose will provide optimized protection against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.”
Tim Williamson, a pulmonologist, critical care specialist and vice president of quality and safety at the University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, Kansas, said Friday that record numbers of children were being hospitalized with COVID-19.
“That is unfortunate,” he said. “You have to be really sick to get in a hospital now. They really are full of the sickest patients we’ve seen, I think, in my career in medicine.”
KDHE reported a pandemic-record 61 children were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday.
Amber Schmidtke, chairwoman of the division of natural sciences and mathematics at the University of St. Mary based in Leavenworth, said Kansas and Missouri lagged national averages in terms of vaccinating individuals age 5 to 18. Fifteen percent of Kansans and 13% of Missourians 5 to 11 have been fully vaccinated, she said, compared to the national figure of 19%. In the 12 to 17 age group, 48% of Kansans and 41% of Missourians have been vaccinated against 54% nationally.
“We can say COVID doesn’t affect us, but that’s about as effective as shouting at a Category 5 hurricane. This thing is on us. We have to take action,” Schmidtke said.
The New England Journal of Medicine published a new study of pediatric patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 at 31 hospitals in 23 states between July 1 and Oct. 25, 2021. The patients were 12 and 18 years old, and 445 in the study had COVID-19 and 777 taking part in the study didn’t have the virus.
Among the patients with COVID-19, 180 or 40% of infected patients were placed in an intensive care unit and 29% within that group required life support. Only two of the 180 patients in ICU were fully vaccinated. The study was conducted by the CDC and a network of pediatric hospitals.
In the Senate resolution introduced by Steffen, he said “naturally immune” individuals, or those who contracted and recovered from COVID-19, “should not be subjected to any restrictions or vaccine mandates.”
For example, Douglas County and some cities in Johnson County recently imposed mask mandates and the administration of President Joe Biden required COVID-19 vaccination, with exceptions, of health workers in hospitals receiving federal funding.
“Natural immunity is the best long-lasting solution against the development of COVID-19 disease and its more serious outcomes,” Steffen said. “Naturally immune people have the lowest risk of virus transmission and should not be subject to travel, professional, medical or social restrictions. Natural immunity is the most effective source of herd immunity, a condition necessary for eradicating the COVID-19 virus.”
His resolution said government health agencies should be prohibited from interfering with doctors such as himself when treating COVID-19 patients. He said insurance companies ought to stop blocking coverage of alternative medicines prescribed by physicians.
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