‘Covid Not Harmless to Children’: Surgeon General Blasts McConaughey’s Anti-Vaccine Mandate Stance
21:13 GMT 10.11.2021 (Updated: 21:05 GMT 19.10.2022)
© AP Photo / Richard ShotwellMatthew McConaughey attends the LA Premiere of "The Beach Bum" at ArcLight Hollywood on Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Los Angeles.
© AP Photo / Richard Shotwell
A day after actor Matthew McConaughey added his voice to the opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates for school children, the country’s top medical official has pushed back, pointing out that the virus poses just as great a risk to children as it does to adults.
"Covid is not harmless in our children," US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told CNN on Wednesday. "Many kids have died. Sadly, hundreds of children - thousands - have been hospitalized, and as a dad of a child who has been hospitalized several years ago for another illness, I would never wish upon any parent they have a child that ends up in the hospital.”
He added that in trials, the vaccines have been proven more than 90% effective for children ages 5-11 at protecting them from symptomatic infection.
So far, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorized for children, extending down to the age of 5, with children getting a smaller, single-shot dose of the same vaccine that’s given to adults in a strong two-shot course. The vaccines made by Moderna and by Johnson & Johnson, which are also approved for emergency use in the US, have not yet been given Food and Drug Administration approval for children.
Murthy’s comments come a day after McConaughey weighed in on COVID-19 vaccines, telling the New York Times in an interview that he opposed requiring children to get the shot before attending school because he didn’t have enough information on it.
“We go slow on vaccinations, even before Covid,” he said of his family. The actor has three children.
Still, McConaughey’s position was nuanced, saying that he, his wife, Camila Alves, and his oldest child, who is 13, have all been vaccinated, and that he believes scientists are trying “to do the right thing.”
"Do I think that there's any kind of scam or conspiracy theory?" he asked. "Hell no. We all got to get off that narrative. There's not a conspiracy theory on the vaccines.”
The Academy Award-winning actor, who lives in southern Texas, also said he was considering a run for governor of the Lone Star State, where Governor Greg Abbott has banned any type of pandemic mandate, including mask-wearing and vaccination. McConaughey didn’t say what party he might run on, but he did indicate that he believes the state’s six-week abortion ban, which is being defended before the Supreme Court, is "overly aggressive” and “doesn't seem to open up the room for a sensible choice to be made at the right time.”
As vaccination in the US has waned from its high numbers in the spring of 2021, both federal and local officials have looked to mandates of various kinds to push vaccination numbers back up in a bid to contain the highly infectious virus and allow the economy to fully reopen. Hesitation to get vaccinated has come from a number of different directions, including distrust of the medical establishment to political posturing against a Democratic administration.
In their resistance to vaccine mandates, Republicans have often compared them to socialist governments like China, which they characterize as authoritarian. However, China’s National Health Commission has ironically banned vaccine mandates, saying they are less effective at getting people vaccinated than voluntary and informed immunization. According to health ministry data, China has vaccinated about 84% of its population while the US has vaccinated about 58%.