The announcement this week of a vaccination programme for 12-15 year olds has prompted many questions. To help answer these and reassure children and families who may have concerns I have set out the key details and my position on this change below.
Earlier this year the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in 12-15 years olds. Following advice from the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) and CMOs (Chief Medical Officers) of our four nations, the Government has now announced the NHS will offer one dose of the vaccine to children aged 12 to 15 years old. The vaccine had already been offered to those 12–15-year-olds who are known to have underlying health conditions based on JCVI recommendations alone.
The JCVI stated that in healthy children it considered that ‘the benefits of vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms ... but acknowledges that there is considerable uncertainty regarding the magnitude of potential harms’. They recommended that other considerations such as educational benefits and overall wellbeing of children should be considered by the CMOs. The CMOs completed this assessment and concluded that the additional likely benefits of reducing educational disruption, and the consequent reduction in public health harm from educational disruption, on balance provide sufficient extra advantage to recommend in favour of vaccinating this group.
I am aware there has been significant high-profile concern around an extremely rare side-effect from vaccination, inflammation of the heart (myocarditis). This has been reported more following the second dose. Therefore at present only one dose has been recommended for the broader rollout of the vaccine to children.
Invitations for the jab will be sent out in the following weeks and parental consent will be sought for school – based vaccination programmes. Consent will need to be provided by a parent, guardian or carer before the jab can be administrated. If a child does not agree with their parent’s decision then a discussion should take place between parent, children, and clinician offering the vaccine. In the rare case that a mutual agreement cannot be reached and the child is judged competent to make the decision then they will be able to override their parent’s wishes. This is not a new concept and is a longstanding legal principle that older children can make on decisions regarding their own medical care being offered by a clinician. Anyone facing this situation should ensure they raise any questions or concerns with their clinician.
As with all medical treatment decisions, whether someone chooses to receive the vaccination is a personal decision based on medical advice/recommendations. Individual decisions around whether to be vaccinated, particularly in low-risk groups may be complex and again as with all medical treatments it’s important that everyone has all the information they need to make a free and informed decision. If you do have questions regarding your or your child’s circumstances you can find more information here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/ or you can speak to your treating doctor.
If following your experience of how this happens locally you have any concerns please contact me at email@example.com