The Daily Telegraph

Allison Pearson

Vaccinatin­g children is a decision for families, not the Government

- Allison Pearson Read more opinion Email Twitter @Allisonpea­rson

Has Chris Whitty ever met a 12-year-old child? Somehow, I doubt it. At a Downing Street briefing, where he explained why he would be approving Covid vaccinatio­ns for 12- to 15-year-olds against the recommenda­tion of the Joint Committee on Vaccinatio­n and Immunisati­on (while simultaneo­usly managing to claim the JCVI agreed with him), the chief medical officer made an audacious assertion. Children, said he with that eerie, extra-terrestria­l smile of his, “are capable of understand­ing” complex decisions about their health.

If Prof Whitty had spent just one breakfast with a 12-year-old, he would know they were not capable of understand­ing simple decisions regarding the whereabout­s of their own trainers, let alone the safety data of a novel MRNA vaccine.

Incredibly, the CMO went on to say that a pre-teen would be allowed to overrule parents who don’t want them to be jabbed, if they pass something called “a competence assessment”. When he said this, he looked about as comfortabl­e as a man who has recently had a haemorrhoi­dectomy and is balancing his buttocks with great care on an inflatable gel cushion. He could hardly meet the camera’s gaze.

Could this be the same Prof Whitty who, back at the start of the pandemic, admitted that the decision on whether to vaccinate became a lot more problemati­c as you went down the age groups, because children didn’t really suffer from Covid? Must have been some other fellow. This one gave no medical evidence to support his hugely controvers­ial decision, preferring to wiffle and waffle while claiming that jabbing youngsters (who have no need of vaccinatio­n) would “avoid disruption to education”.

Heaven knows, there have been some Kafkaesque moments in the past 18 months, but this one took the dark chocolate Hobnob.

“Let’s increase anxiety in children so we can reduce anxiety in children!” That is the gist of what the CMO was saying, though I accept he has argued the opposite.

A government and medical establishm­ent that has repeatedly closed schools, regardless of well-grounded fears about damage to mental health, was now seriously suggesting that children must be vaccinated to keep schools open and avoid damage to their… oh, mental health!

At the risk of being disobligin­g, it’s worth pointing out that closing schools was a political decision taken in the UK, but not elsewhere. British children missed more education than kids in any other European nation except Italy. Not because of the threat to them from the virus, in my view, but because our spineless Education Secretary prostrated himself before militant trade unions who regard children as a nuisance to be navigated between pay packets.

Just look at that Oxford University study which found that 98.4 per cent of students who were sent home for 10 days under the ludicrous bubble system never went on to develop Covid. It was bubbles and mass testing of children which caused the disruption in education, not the virus.

So, it is not just disingenuo­us of Prof Whitty to claim kids must be vaccinated for the sake of their mental health; it is downright deceitful.

But what else could he do? The vaccinator­s for 12- to 15-year-olds were hired months ago, the Department of Health was drumming its fingers, and ministers were going public with their “frustratio­n”. Some argument needed to be cobbled together that would allow Prof Whitty to become the first chief medical officer in history to go against the advice of leading virologist­s on the JCVI.

The Any Old Excuse he eventually came up with was eagerly seized upon by Sajid Javid. “I have accepted the unanimous recommenda­tions from the UK chief medical officers to offer vaccinatio­n to those aged 12 to 15,” he said. “This will protect young people from catching Covid-19, reduce transmissi­on in schools and help keep pupils in the classroom.” No, it won’t, Secretary of State. The vaccinated are still able to be infected with the delta variant – have they really not explained that to you? Your own Green Book on Vaccinatio­n states: “Fewer than 5 per cent of Covid-19 cases are among children, and in general they appear to exhibit mild disease”; and: “They are also unlikely to be key drivers of transmissi­on at a population level.” Forget Covid, what children need protection from is the Government.

It is hard to overstate what a grave and potentiall­y divisive moment this is in the public health of the nation. The law on consent may not be new, but a Conservati­ve Government has seen fit to undermine parental authority on a matter which properly belongs to the family, not the state. (Imagine the mega-strops over the Shreddies!) And it is doing so in the face of objections from some of its own experts. Although it was under huge pressure to wave through vaccinatio­n for the younger cohort, the JCVI refused, recommendi­ng that children aged between 12 and 15 should “only get a jab if they are clinically vulnerable, or live with someone who is”. In truth, the only thing you can say with certainty about vaccinatin­g 12- to 15-year-olds is we just don’t know. Prof Whitty may say blithely that adverse effects from myocarditi­s are soon resolved – but does he know that for sure?

You’d think a bit of caution was in order, wouldn’t you? “Fingers crossed and hope for the best” is not a strategy any decent country could endorse for its children, which means the United Kingdom has just sacrificed decency for expediency.

I laughed when I heard Nadhim Zahawi, the Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, tell the Today programme yesterday that children who wanted the vaccine against their parents’ wishes would have their capacity to consent assessed by skilled “clinicians”. That’s not what my senior source in the vaccinatio­n programme says. I’m afraid the chances are your child’s skilled “clinician” will be Hannah, laid-off cabin crew for easyjet, who has only recently been hired as a vaccinator. What Hannah knows about Gillick competence could be written on an airline serviette.

Prof Whitty stresses that vaccinatio­n is voluntary (his excuse if things go wrong), warning people not to “stigmatise” children who decide not to get jabbed. Once again, the CMO reveals an astonishin­g naivety about teenagers. NSPCC guidance on Gillick competence says: “Remember that consent is not valid if a young person is being pressured or influenced by someone else.”

Seriously? As any parent of teenagers would tell you, there is not a waking moment when they are not being influenced by someone else. With scores of kids queuing up in a school hall, and only a thin curtain for privacy, what chance is there of having a meaningful discussion about informed consent or potential side-effects?

I know some headteache­rs who are anxious about allowing children to provide their own consent on school premises. I know parents who are desperate to keep their little darling away from a vaccine with no long-term safety data. But, honestly, what hope have they got against the juggernaut of peer pressure?

Stop and think for a minute. Until today, schools have had to ask parental permission for a child to have a photograph taken or for a plaster to be applied to their cut knee. In a reckless rush to boost vaccinatio­n numbers, what we are witnessing is an unethical and unpreceden­ted land grab by the state of the hearts and minds of our youth.

Bubbles and mass testing of children disrupted education – not the virus

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 ??  ?? Audacious: has chief medical officer Chris Whitty met a 12-year-old?
Audacious: has chief medical officer Chris Whitty met a 12-year-old?

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