Many parents across the country rejoiced last month when the Food and Drug Administration approved the COVID-19 vaccine for children.
But actor and potential candidate for Texas governor Matthew McConaughey seems not to be among them. McConaughey recently told TheNew York Times he is in no rush to vaccinate his kids.
But U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is firing back.
Murthy went on CNN to respond to McConaughey's comments and dispel the continued rumors COVID-19 is a low-risk disease for children.
Speaking to CNN's Erin Burnett, Murthy gave a sobering warning to parents about the dangers of COVID-19 to children.
"This is an opportunity to protect our kids. COVID is not harmless in our children."
"Many kids have died. Sadly, hundreds of children ― thousands ― have been hospitalized."
Murthy then spoke of his own experience with having had to hospitalize his child for an illness a few years ago.
"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."
McConaughey confirmed he is vaccinated against COVID-19 and previously used his platform to urge his fellow Texans to get vaccinated. The state ranks just 28th out of the 50 states and Washington D.C. for COVID-19 vaccination, with a rate of 53%—worryingly low given it is the second most populous state in the country.
But when it comes to kids, McConaughey sings a different tune, telling The New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin he will not be vaccinating his kids yet, despite the fact his 90-year-old immunocompromised mother lives with him and his family.
McConaughey was careful to clarify his main objection is to vaccine mandates for children, and he believes scientists are "trying to do the right thing." He also made reference to what he called "problematic" anti-vaccine movements.
"Do I think that there's any kind of scam or conspiracy theory? No I don't."
Nevertheless, McConaughey told Sorkin he still wanted to "find out more information" before vaccinating his children—a hesitancy Murthy addressed in his comments to Burnett.
"The vaccines have shown in these trials of children five through 11, they're more than 90% effective at protecting our kids from symptomatic infection, and they're remarkably safe as well."
"The kind of side effects they saw were a sore arm, fatigue, headache."
On Twitter, people weren't quite so diplomatic as Dr. Murthy about McConaughey's comments, and criticized him for contributing to the dangerous wave of vaccine hesitancy gripping the country.
According to data released by the state Monday, the unvaccinated account for 92% of the state's 29,000 deaths so far this year.
The state has seen a sobering rate of children who have had COVID-19 developing a debilitating inflammatory disorder related to the infection.