The Guardian

Health trust rows back over plans for pupils if parents withhold consent

- Sally Weale Education correspond­ent

A local health authority has rowed back on plans to send pupils who want the Covid jab but whose parents have refused consent to mass vaccinatio­n centres rather than them receiving it in school.

The details were laid out in a letter sent to headteache­rs by the Oxford Health NHS foundation trust, which also clarifies that any child whose parent has given consent but refuses the vaccine themselves will not be forced to have it.

The trust later clarified, however, that following further discussion­s no children in the 12-15 age cohort would be directed to turn up at large-scale vaccinatio­n centres. The trust also said its teams would work closely with headteache­rs in obtaining parental consent.

Schools are worried they could get caught up in family disputes over vaccinatio­n, and have sought confirmati­on from ministers that health teams responsibl­e for delivering the jabs will deal with any consent issues.

The letter, seen by the Guardian, addresses some of those concerns. It says: “Any child, for whom a parent/ carer has given consent, who refuses the vaccinatio­n themselves would not be coerced/forced to have it.

“A discussion with the child would take place to ascertain their reason for refusal and their wishes would be respected. Any young person who attends for vaccinatio­n for whom consent from a parent/carer has not been given will not be vaccinated in school. These young people will be provided with informatio­n about the vaccine and will be directed to a mass vaccinatio­n centre.”

However, a spokespers­on for the trust said later that the 3 September letter was intended to outline potential scenarios for discussion to support the potential rollout of vaccinatio­ns to all 12-15-year-olds.

“The letter made it clear that further details would be provided in due course as it was sent some 10 days before the government’s announceme­nt [on jabs for this age group] and pending more detailed national guidance.

“Oxford Health can confirm that no children in the 12-15 age cohort will be directed to turn up at large-scale vaccinatio­n centres to receive a vaccinatio­n, and that our teams will be working closely with headteache­rs in obtaining parental consents and delivering vaccines when requested to do so, in line with the guidance on consent as outlined by the chief medical officers [on Monday].”

Letters are expected to be sent out to parents of 12- to 15-year-olds imminently, describing the jab programme and seeking parental consent.

According to the Oxford letter, which is likely to reflect the situation across the country, the window for vaccinatio­ns is tight, with the aim of completing the programme within six weeks, ideally ahead of the autumn half-term. Shots will be administer­ed through lunch and break times to speed up the process.

Schools will be asked for a groundfloo­r room with an entry and exit, large enough to accommodat­e 10 vaccinator­s. There must be enough space to allow for pupils to be observed for 15 minutes post-jab, and the Oxford letter asks headteache­rs to provide a “thin crash mat and a bucket/dish for students who may feel nauseous and a screen for privacy”.

In recent days, schools across the country have received letters as part of a coordinate­d campaign threatenin­g legal action, warning that headteache­rs will be held personally liable in the event of any child suffering ill-effects from vaccinatio­n on the school site.

The government is expected to publish guidance shortly, making clear that schools have no legal liability with regard to Covid vaccines for 12- to 15-year-olds. The guidance is also expected to make clear that issues around consent will be matters for the NHS staff who are trained to assess “Gillick competence”, rather than school staff.

The Gillick competency test applies in cases where it is necessary to assess whether a child has the maturity to make their own informed decisions. Factors which are taken into account include age, maturity and understand­ing of the issue, what it involves, plus any risks and the advantages and disadvanta­ges that might arise.

 ??  ?? ▲ The Oxford letter says no pupil will be coerced into having the jab
▲ The Oxford letter says no pupil will be coerced into having the jab

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