Children in England will be able to get their first Covid-19 vaccination from next week but experts have expressed concern over the youngest children getting a jab without parental consent.
Health leaders approved first doses of the Pfizer vaccine for over-12s on Monday.
But Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he would not feel comfortable with a 12-year-old getting a jab if their parent had not consented.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said children will only be able to have a vaccination against their parents’ wishes following a meeting with a clinician.
Professor Devi Sridhar, personal chairwoman in global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said mixed messaging surrounding jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds “hasn’t helped”.
She told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I personally think part of it is because they were so late with a decision – we have just had the same evidence that other countries have had since May and June, and those countries ran ahead because they knew the school year was coming and started vaccinating their children.
“There hasn’t really been new evidence that’s come up in the UK shift in position … they’re trying to explain to people why they’re doing something now that they didn’t do two months ago.”
#LeaveOurKidsAlone began to trend on Twitter as there was outrage from people on social media who were furious at the government’s new vaccine rollout.
UK govt. CONFIRMS plans to vaccinate all over-12s from next week but gives CHILDREN the final say on whether they get the jab, NOT their parents .— Gillian McKeith (@GillianMcKeith) September 13, 2021
My kids will NOT be vaxxed for covid— James Wells (@JamesfWells) September 13, 2021
They’ve had other vaccines, but this is different
New tech, NO long-term data, risks of heart inflammation & the JCVI REFUSED to recomended it!
Vaxxing kids to protect them from GOV policy is perverse & abhorrent#LeaveOurKidsAlone pic.twitter.com/Bpm2z1wxLt
What are young peoples’ rights to treatment?
Thankfully, a paediatrician was on hand to explain exactly why under 18’s have the right to consent to treatment.
A great🧵from @TessaRDavis setting out under 18’s right to consent to treatment— Connecting Care (@CC4CLondon) September 14, 2021
On the back of the government’s decision to roll out the #CovidVaccine for 12-15 year old’s to help limit further disruption to education https://t.co/h3UAUCI04a
Tessa Davis gives tips on surviving as a clinician and as a human, she put this thread together explaining consent for under 18s getting treatment without parental agreement.
In 1985 the Gillick judgment laid out how young people in the UK can consent to treatment without parental agreement.— Tessa Davis (@TessaRDavis) September 13, 2021
12-15 year olds can now have the COVID vaccine.
They can consent even if the parents refuse.
These 5 points will help you understand Gillick competence: 🧵👇
But first, some definitions are key.— Tessa Davis (@TessaRDavis) September 13, 2021
Most people know that when you become 18 you’re considered an adult.
And when you’re 16/17 you can consent to treatment just like an adult can.
But, unlike adults, at 16/17 if you refuse treatment it could, in some cases, be overridden.
What about under 16s?— Tessa Davis (@TessaRDavis) September 13, 2021
Most people think that those under 16 can’t make decisions without their parent’s agreement, But they can.
Experts agree that this isn’t about AGE. It’s about CAPACITY
That’s where Gillick competence comes in.
It changes how we can listen to young people
Point #1: Competence can be assessed.— Tessa Davis (@TessaRDavis) September 13, 2021
Gillick competence assessment is based on:
• Understanding: the issues, risks, consequences, alternatives
• Ability to explain their reasons in their own words
Gillick unlocks the ability to consent without parental agreement
Point #2: Competence doesn’t equal consent— Tessa Davis (@TessaRDavis) September 13, 2021
Just as with adult consent, they need to be making the decision themselves.
Each issue needs to be considered on its own.
Importantly, if a young person is under pressure, then their consent won’t be valid. Even if they have capacity.
Point #3: Competence is situational.— Tessa Davis (@TessaRDavis) September 13, 2021
It’s easy to assume that being competent for one decision means they are for all.
Competence can change if:
• the decision is more complex
• they are under lots of stress
Having capacity in ONE scenario doesn’t mean they have it for all.
Point #4: The parents don’t have to agree.— Tessa Davis (@TessaRDavis) September 13, 2021
It’s better to get parental agreement, but it’s not necessary.
This guidance is in place explicitly so that parent decisions CAN be overruled if their child disagrees.
With so much bias out there, this gives young people more freedom.
Point #5: We must respect our young people— Tessa Davis (@TessaRDavis) September 13, 2021
Finally the most important idea of all
We should be pleased our young people can have capacity to decide themselves
This means we
• Recognise their intellect
• Respect them as independent thinkers
• Recognise their societal value
TL;DR – 5 ideas to help you understand Gillick competence— Tessa Davis (@TessaRDavis) September 13, 2021
• #1: Competence can be assessed
• #2: Capacity doesn’t equal consent
• #3: Competence is situational
• #4: The parents don’t have to agree
• #5: We should respect our young people
My 14yo will make her own decision