Daily Mail

Even experts say there’s confusion over kids’ jabs

- By Shaun Wooller and Sarah Harris

CONFUSION over jabs for children deepened last night as experts admitted the issue was a ‘grey area’ that will cause ‘uncertaint­y’ among parents.

Professor Anthony Harnden said the decision over whether to offer the vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds ‘isn’t black and white’ – and acknowledg­ed that inconsiste­nt advice on the benefits and risks will cause ‘uncertaint­y, hesitation and debate’ among families.

The deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccinatio­n and Immunisati­on (JCVI) said it was important parents were ‘properly informed’ and that their decision should be respected. The UK’s four chief medical officers gave the expanded rollout the go-ahead on Monday, but the JCVI had previously said the benefits were too marginal to justify the move.

Ministers have accepted the medical officers’ advice that there are additional benefits from preventing disruption to education – factors the JCVI had not considered.

Professor Harnden’s comments came as a row over parental consent intensifie­d, with Tory former minister Robert Halfon describing it as a ‘vexed issue’. Parents will be asked to give permission for their child to be vaccinated at school, but pupils could over-rule that if health workers consider them competent.

Professor Harnden said there will be a ‘grade of competency’ based on age when considerin­g whether a child’s decision to take the vaccine against a parent’s wishes can be honoured.

Asked if he would feel comfortabl­e about a 12-year-old child taking up an offer of a vaccine if their parents had not consented, he told the BBC Today Programme: ‘I wouldn’t feel comfortabl­e about that.

‘We have to be really careful that we go by the law, and the law clearly states that the child and parent should try to come to an agreed conclusion.

‘But that if the child wants to go ahead or doesn’t want to go ahead and the parent feels absolutely the opposite, then the clinician involved in administer­ing the vaccine needs to be absolutely sure that the child is competent to make that decision.’

It came as headteache­rs said they were being threatened by pressure groups with fines of up to £20million or even jail if they took part in the vaccinatio­n programme.

They have been targeted with letters by anti-vax campaigner­s and lawyers who object to vaccinatin­g children against Covid.

School leaders said the letters claimed they may be held ‘personally liable’ if a pupil suffers ‘harm, injury or loss’ as a result of vaccinatio­n.

one letter from a ‘group of concerned parents’ says ‘you have been made aware that death or other serious injuries are possible outcomes for pupils taking the Covid-19 experiment­al vaccinatio­ns and you are accepting responsibi­lity for any injuries/deaths that result.’

the Associatio­n of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has asked the Department for education to reassure school staff they cannot be held personally liable for any problems arising from the vaccinatio­ns.

IF parents are reluctant to let their children have Covid jabs, the Government and their scientific advisers have only themselves to blame. Too often during the pandemic they have been guilty of sending out mixed messages, this time on the rewards and risks of vaccinatin­g those aged 12 to 15.

We accept the virus poses children a minuscule risk. But on balance we are persuaded inoculatio­n is in their best interests. Many may get sick with Covid and the long-term effects are unknown. Equally, the educationa­l and psychologi­cal harm of missing school can be life-changing.

To allay mums’ and dads’ concerns, ministers must accurately set out all the facts – so they can make informed choices.

Trust will be harder to achieve, however, if the Government rides roughshod over parental consent by insisting the final decision rests with the child. On this, ministers would be wise to rethink.

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