Portsmouth councillor on 'confusing' issue of parental consent for children aged 12-15 having Covid vaccine

CHILDREN aged 12 to 15 across Portsmotuh will be offered one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine - but questions remain over the ‘confusing’ move.

By Steve Deeks
Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 3:34 pm
Education boss Cllr Suzy Horton.
Picture: Habibur Rahman
Education boss Cllr Suzy Horton. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The announcement comes following advice from the four chief medical officers (CMOs), the health and social care secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced on Monday night.

The government accepted the recommendation of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Parental guardian or carer consent will be sought prior to vaccination with MP Zahawi declaring the jab would be ‘safe’ for those aged 12-15 - with him adding that people who decline to be jabbed should not be ‘stigmatised’.

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The NHS is now preparing to deliver a schools-based vaccination programme supported by GPs and community pharmacies. Invitations for vaccination will begin next week.

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Councillor Suzy Horton, member for children, families and education at Portsmouth City Council said: ‘Throughout the pandemic there has been a careful balance between the health of the most vulnerable in society and the importance of attending school.

‘There is no doubt that children should be back in school when it is safe to do so. But it seems as if the no-brainer advice to the elderly to get the vaccine is not so obvious for the young where it is seen as more of a "benefit to society” - and only a marginal health benefit to the young person, tipping the balance to a yes.

‘What’s even more confusing is that parental consent is desirable but can be overruled by a young person and this could lead to some tricky decisions being made within families, and puts schools in a potentially difficult decision. It would be great if the government could think this one through before another last minute decision for schools to pick up.

‘The council has consistently supported schools to deliver education and operate within the boundaries of government guidelines throughout the pandemic and this will be no different.’

Meanwhile Alan Mak, MP for Havant, welcomed the move. He said: ‘Parental or guardian consent will be required.

‘But following the chief medical officers’ recommendation by expanding vaccinations this can protect young people from catching Covid-19, reduce transmission in schools and keep pupils in the classroom, which are all positives.’

Health secretary, Sajid Javid said: ‘I have accepted the recommendation from the chief medical officers to expand vaccination to those aged 12 to 15 - protecting young people from catching COVID-19, reducing transmission in schools and keeping pupils in the classroom.

‘I am very grateful for the expert advice I have received from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and UK chief medical officers.

‘Our outstanding NHS stands ready to move forward with rolling out the vaccine to this group with the same sense of urgency we've had at every point in our vaccination programme.’

It comes after the four chief medical officers of the UK said that children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at a Downing Street press conference earlier in the day.

England’s chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty said it had been a ‘difficult decision’ regarding vaccinating children but CMOs would not be recommending the jabs ‘unless we felt that benefit exceeded risk’.

He added: ‘In a sense, what we’re not trying to do is say to children “you must, must, must, must, must” but what we’re saying is that we think on balance the benefits both at an individual level and in terms of wider indirect benefits to education and through that to public health are in favour, otherwise we would not be making this recommendation.’

Healthy school-aged children will receive their vaccination in their school with provision for those who are home-schooled, in secure services or specialist mental health settings.

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